Edinburgh Fringe Review: Misanthropy

Definition of misanthropy: hatred of humankind. Sam Siggs’ play isn’t quite that fervently hateful, but rather considers what lies behind our treatment of other human beings.

This is one of those plays where a lot is going on and the characters do not realise how intertwined their lives are. Six characters are linked by one assault and as the blame flies around, a more literal vicious circle erupts. Believing him to have raped Faye (a suitably traumatised Katie Milne), Gordon (Cameron Forbes) and Stuart (Sean Langtree) beat up Bradley (Ross McNab). His cousin Mason (Steven Potter), who has a thing for violence to spice up his life, influences Bradley and his best friend Oscar (David Edment) to take revenge on Gordon.

It’s a neat little plot from Sam Siggs that comes together nicely. There’s very little sense in harming your fellow man, says the play. OK, I knew that – that’s what I’ve been taught all my life. Maybe a homicidal maniac in the audience learned something from Misanthropy but personally, I feel this isn’t a ground-breaking play. It’s an interesting character study, but not much more. Siggs manages to develop this set of six characters very well in just an hour – I have reason to engage with all of them. Forbes and Potter do convey that thrill attached to violence, and with Forbes at least, it’s not a mindless act but carries a degree of doubt and guilt too. Ross McNab is an intriguing character to watch who feels genuine and is made more interesting watching his relationship with Edment progress. Edment is very sweet to watch; looking like a little lost sheep in a cast of wolves, he just wants to be liked, and can’t even bear the wankers thinking of him badly.

Siggs’ script feels unnatural in the way characters suddenly move from interacting with one another to speaking directly to the audience. Whenever a play does this I feel as if I’m supposed to be having my own silent dialogue with the play, but although I’m carried along with the story, it isn’t stimulating in that way. The monologues can also be as expository as they are streams of consciousness. It’s the only time I stop believing in the characters and that’s because this unsettled style is forcing me to step out of the play.

So everybody gels nicely and the story flows. Yet this is a difficult show in that the writing is good, the acting is good, the ideas behind the production are all good. I just don’t have a reaction to it, it doesn’t make me think about what’s going on or feel massively for the characters. Misanthropy is lacking definition from director Kirsty Logan.

*** – 3/5 stars

Misanthropy plays at C eca until 27 August as part of the Edinburgh Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.

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