Max Dickins

Kin

04/08/18

Underbelly, Cowgate

We first became aware of writer Max Dickins’ work at last year’s fringe when we happened upon his brilliant monologue, The Man on the Moor, and marked him as a name to watch out for in the future. With Kin, he steps away from the performance side of things, but the power of his writing is evident in every line of this excellent drama, which concentrates on the story of two estranged sisters, brought together by the imminent death of their equally estranged father.

The action occurs in a single room of the father’s American home. Lily (Kate Alderton) is already there, dutifully preparing for his demise, when Sarah (Abigail Burdess) arrives, jet-lagged and cranky, to lend a hand. The father remains an off-stage presence, only intermittently heard via a strategically placed baby alarm – but his belongings litter the stage and help to draw a picture of the man. It quickly becomes clear that the two sisters do not really get on: they haven’t seen each other for two decades; something happened back in their teenage years to drive a wedge between them. Lily is married, a stay-at-home mother with two children; Sarah is a fierce loner who has devoted her life to her career. They are worlds apart, and yet they shared so much when they were young. As the hours pass, we learn about the events that have driven them apart, about the bitter rivalries that time has failed to erase –  and our first impressions of the two women are cleverly undermined. We come to understand that what we think we know about them may not be as straightforward as we initially suppose.

The script crackles and spits with dark invective – Sarah’s dialogue in particular is unflinchingly brutal and hilarious in its insistence on making no compromises, taking no prisoners. The performances of both actors are first rate and, by the play’s highly emotive conclusion, it’s clear that the tears being shed onstage go far beyond mere acting.

If you enjoy powerful theatre about family dynamics, get yourselves to the Underbelly with all haste and catch this one.

4.5 stars

Philip Caveney

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Edfest Bouquets 2017

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It was another fantastic three weeks at the Fringe for us. We crammed in as many shows as we possibly could – and still barely managed to scratch the surface. Here’s our pick of the best we saw this year. Congratulations to everyone mentioned.

Theatre

Seagulls – Volcano Theatre

Peer Gynt – Gruffdog Theatre

The Power Behind the Crone – Alison Skilbeck

Safe Place – Clara Glynn

Pike Street – Nilaja Sun

 

Comedy

The Darkness of Robins – John Robins

Kinabalu – Phil Wang

Dominant – John Robertson

Mistress & Misfit – Shappi Khorsandi

Oh Frig, I’m 50! – Richard Herring

 

Story Telling

One Seventeen – Sarah Kendall

These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone – Will Greenway

The Man on the Moor – Max Dickins

Eggsistentialism – Joanne Ryan

Blank Tiles – Dylan Cole

 

Special Mentions

The Toxic Avenger: The Musical – Aria Entertainment & Flying Music

Up Close – Chris Dugdale

The Cat Man Curse – Pelican Theatre

Cathy – Cardboard Citizen Theatre

Well Meaning, but Right Leaning – Geoff Norcott

The Man on the Moor

06/08/17

Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh

The Man on the Moor is a monologue, written and performed by Max Dickins. And it’s really very good indeed. Inspired by the true story of an unidentified body found on Saddleworth Moor in 2015, it examines the idea of what it means to ‘go missing’ – and the impact a disappearance has on those who are left behind.

Dickins plays a man whose life has been profoundly affected by his father’s disappearance more than twenty years ago. He sees his father everywhere and, when he reads in the news about the body, he becomes absolutely convinced that the mystery body on the moor is, in fact, his dad. This belief quickly builds into an obsession.

It’s beautifully written – every word carefully weighted, the rhythm perfectly honed. And it’s performed well too: Dickins’ acting is at once compelling and understated. It’s a serious subject, emotionally charged. There are teary moments, and there is dread. But there is also humour, a mix of light and shade to leaven the atmosphere. The piece is nicely judged, and holds the audience’s attention throughout, no mean feat considering the unholy racket bleeding in from the corridor outside.

It’s sobering to be told that someone goes missing in Britain every eight minutes – and that every year, two thousand people disappear and never return. Shows such as this demonstrate the important role theatre can play in illuminating the pain and heartache of dealing with such loss, and maybe go some way towards encouraging people to actually try to make a difference, not least by raising awareness and collecting money for The Missing People charity (missingpeople.org.uk). A worthwhile project, and an engaging production.

4.7 stars

Susan Singfield