Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh
Deadpan Theatre’s Third Wheel is a sparky, original play, with charming performances at its core. Jude Mack and Eliot Salt are Eve and Polly, ex-besties and wannabe lovers, who are reunited after the death of their mutual friend, Dylan (Harry Trevaldwyn). Dylan’s cancer may have killed him, but it hasn’t stopped him trying to heal the rift between these two young women: in a video will, he instructs them to take his ashes on a road trip around the UK. How can they refuse? They can’t. So, reluctant and grumpy, the pair embark on a journey to rediscover the love they feel for each other.
This is a very theatrical piece: there are lifts and balances à la Frantic Assembly; overlapping speech à la Caryl Churchill (I can almost see the ‘interruption slashes’ in the script); an on-stage band that acts as a chorus, commenting on and informing the action. It’s very technique-y, but it doesn’t feel overdone: it’s fun and light; this young company are clearly having fun, enjoying playing with the form.
If there’s a false note, it’s maybe the montages. I like the idea of these, and they work in conveying a sense of distance travelled, time passed. But the animated car/map needs to be a little more thought-out: as a visual clue, it’s disorientating because it bears no resemblance to where we’re meant to be. At the end of one section, for example, there’s a close up of Manchester on screen. And then the characters start talking, and I’m confused, because it seems that they’re in London. While I’m making the leap, I must miss a line or two, because they’re at a train station and I don’t know why (a minute ago they were in a car).
But overall, this is a delightful piece. I love the way the ultra-naturalistic dialogue and speech patterns contrast with the more stylised stuff. The music is a welcome addition, and it’s a funny, quirky story that engages me throughout. The acting is spot-on, the characters nuanced and believable. Okay, so it’s a bit rough around the edges, and not as polished as it might be, but that doesn’t stop it being a little gem. I like it, and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Deadpan Theatre’s future projects.