Roundabout at Summerhall, Edinburgh
This, storyteller Sam Ward tells us, is a choice. This: staying here, listening to what he has to say, engaging with his tale. There’s no happy ending, he says; he wants to be upfront about that. We’re free to refuse. To sit in silence for the allotted hour. It just needs one audience member to say, “I would like to begin.”
The risk is small (especially during Fringe, when more than half the audience are probably performers of some kind), but it feels real. I find myself wondering what it would be like if no one spoke. Would we really just sit? But there’s barely a hesitation. A confident voice rings out. And we begin.
This is a story on an epic scale, and the miserable outcome is existential rather than personal. Ward’s whimsical narration takes us on a journey billions of years into the future, when the planet dies, the universe collapses. Our fate is sealed. The question is, do we want to know what happens along the way? And the answer, of course, is yes.
Yesyesnono theatre company specialises in ‘democratic art’, and We Were Promised Honey! demonstrates clearly what this might look like, how it might work. Ward creates a friendly, open atmosphere, where people feel safe to join in, confident that he won’t make fools of them or push them to do things that make them uncomfortable. Apocalyptic subject matter notwithstanding, WWPH! is a joyous, hopeful kind of show, focusing on the small kindnesses and moments of happiness we find in our lives, despite our inevitable demise. We’re all like Richard Russell, the 29-year-old Sea-Tac baggage handler, who went joyriding – in a plane, even though he’d never flown before. Eventually, he crash-landed and died but, for a while, he flew…
This is a gentle, quirky piece of collaborative theatre, and I leave feeling strangely soothed, and ready to embrace the day.