The Edinburgh Fringe excites me because of plays like Rainbow. By way of form it’s brave: an hour and twenty five minutes of what is essentially three monologues spoken in turn, with very little movement. It’s a no bells and whistles production from Emily Jenkins, who both writes and directs, and that’s because this play can quite easily stand alone.
This play is less sunshine, lollipops and rainbows and more torture, suicide and sex. Jenkins’ visceral yet lyrical script is so easy to get sucked into. She identifies the rhythms in each individual’s story and sets them against one another, so the audience knows they are on an incessant journey to somewhere, whether that be pleasant or unpleasant. Jenkins’ script is wonderfully complex to follow, interlinking these three characters whose lives are more closely intertwined than expected. Russ (Oliver Ashworth) beats people up for a living, Tom (Kyle Tresslove) is just different from all the other kids and Martin (James Hender) is having an affair with his student. Safe to say, they’re already well established characters. Their stories develop considerably so you realise that in isolated sound bites, they may sound like pretty awful human beings, but when you know every shade of their story, your understanding of them changes. Essentially there’s redemption, rather than a pot of gold, at the end of Rainbow.
To get there though, this play first and foremost needs engaging actors, and it most certainly has them. Ashworth and Tresslove are fit to bursting with energy, and Hender is appropriately pathetic in his understated style, whose arrogant phase as a sex god in contrast is both funny and disturbing. Hender’s character is written with a dry wit which compels the audience to feel sympathy for him before he essentially takes advantage of a naive student. Similarly, despite the rush that Russ gets out of hurting others, he enjoys Radio 4 and isn’t incapable of a good deed. Ashworth’s Russ is extremely animated, and therefore able to communicate the scene like its occurring in real time through his physicality. Even though Tom is fidgety, and talks quickly because his head is extremely busy, Tresslove’s every word is crystal clear and he’s such a likeable character.
The production itself is minimal, the words act just as well as a set would. The three actors stand on individual platforms, a slanted mirror behind them distorting their image and the image of Tom’s tree (a safe haven where he goes to be alone). Rainbow is a thought provoking play which leads you to reassess your image of somebody in terms of the big picture.
**** – 4/5 stars
Rainbow is playing at Zoo Southside as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 27 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.