[author-post-rating] (2/5 Stars)
As a ten-year-old boy stands on the roof of his school, he contemplates his relationship with his father and his school friends, and he thinks of the lies and truths which we tell. As his school teacher shouts for him to come down, he dreams of possibilities, of imagined situations, and wishes that they could actually happen. Titus, the international award-winning play by Jan Sobrie in a translation by Oliver Emanuel, is a young people’s show that is as fleeting in time as it is in its attempts to question how we find ourselves. Directed by Lu Kemp and performed by Joe Arkley, this MacRobert production has good intentions but lacks the playful storytelling that is required to really bring this story to life.
Arkley climbs across the seating within the Summerhall performance space, interacting with audience members and causing a small commotion. Once settled on a table on the stage, his narrative begins. There’s everything likeable about Arkley as a performer, his facial expressions are wide, his voice peaks and dives with differing characters, but ultimately he lacks the subtleties to tell this imagined story. It’s always hard to lead a performance as a one-person show, even more so when it is aimed at children and young adults. Titus doesn’t manage to captivate. For all the large images and grand visions of lies and truths, and the emotive undertones that rumble through the piece, as a performance for young people it feels vaguely as though it does not acknowledge the young people for whom it is intended.
It’s a shame because the writing, which spirals and swirls in narrative and inventive imaginary situations, is pleasant to the ear. Kemp’s direction keeps Arkley fixed to the table, and I wonder if more should have been explored – we get the intention of the roof jumping – to make this piece feel less static than it is. There’s a great sense of playfulness at the end as a fish falls from above and lands on the table, it’s just a shame that as a whole this piece lacks the surprise that the fish manages to punctuate at the end.
Titus is playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 25 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.