An Audience with Stuart Bagcliffe


Zoo Playground 3, Edinburgh

Our audience with Mr B takes place in the intimate setting of Zoo Playground, and it’s clear from the very outset that he’s really not happy about performing for us. Indeed, he’s so nervous, he can barely get his words out. But he’s all too aware that his Mum is waiting in the wings, a silent Svengali, listening to everything he says. And this is her idea, of course; she’s making him do this, insisting that Stuart tell his story to the world, exactly as it happened. She’s always envisioned something grander – a TV show or a Hollywood movie – but that hasn’t happened, so the Fringe is just going to have to do.

Stuart begins his narrative in a meek, West Country accent, telling us all about his schooldays, his friend Daisy and about the strange illness that afflicts him. At first, it’s all very funny. I can’t help laughing out loud at Stuart’s amateurish attempts to ‘act’, to impersonate the various characters who inhabit his tale. I giggle at his weird gurning expressions… and at his absolute terror of getting things wrong.

But make no mistake, the laughter isn’t going to last. We are heading into darker territory…

An Audience with Stuart Bagcliffe is the sort of show which exemplifies the Fringe at its best. Written by Benny Ainsworth and directed by Sally Paffett (both of whom can be seen in Triptytch Theatre’s other Fringe offering, Vermin), this ingeniously constructed monologue features Michael Parker as the titular Stuart, delivering Ainsworth’s script with consummate skill.

Furthermore, Parker’s powerhouse performance culminates in a display of such naked anger and contempt that I feel as though I’ve been punched in the solar plexus. One thing’s for sure: I’ve stopped laughing and my eyes are filled with tears.

There are just a few more chances to catch this little gem before the Fringe winds up, and I would advise you to take the opportunity to see it while you still can. It’s staggeringly good.

5 stars

Philip Caveney



Gilded Balloon, Teviot (Balcony) Edinburgh

I can’t pretend that Vermin is a pleasant theatrical experience. On the contrary, this two-hander from Triptych Theatre, directed by Michael Parker, makes for harrowing viewing. But the piece is superbly acted and this twisted tale of a young couple working through the aftermath of grief is undeniably affecting.

Rachel (Sally Paffett) and Billy (Benny Ainsworth, who also wrote the play) are here to tell us their story from their first meeting on a train, which is delayed while a random stranger on the platform commits suicide, through their whirlwind romance and marriage, to their move to the ‘perfect’ flat, which, as it turns out, is infested with rats. A word of warning here – those with a phobia for rodents may not want to watch this play. No actual rats are shown, you understand, but they are talked about in some detail.

Billy has clearly had psychopathic tendencies from an early age, telling us in a disconcertingly affable – even proud – manner about the cruel escapades of his youth. But Rachel is in love and has a child on the way, so she’s prepared to put such minor issues aside.

Later, however, she proves not quite so ready to forgive Billy’s transgressions…

Vermin heads steadily deeper and deeper into disturbing territory, but it’s the naturalistic performances that make this piece fly, with both characters breaking off to bicker, or to dispute the other’s memory of a certain incident – and the play’s climax brings everything sharply into focus.

4 stars

Philip Caveney