At first glance of its synopsis, In Fidelity sounds like a gimmick. “Part TED Talk, part theatrical experiment” and with the inclusion of “a live onstage date”, the show I expected was a surface level comedy where everyone in the audience would thank heaven they weren’t the strangers chosen for this onstage date, all the while enjoying the discomfort of those who had been. The show I got was far, far better.
Through each scene of the play, handily titled for us through a combination of closed captioning and projection at the back of the stage, we were in safe hands. Rob Drummond, not only a performer but the man who wrote the piece, exuded comfort and reassurance. With a sharp wit that was never intended to criticise or mock, softly spoken voice and matter-of-fact, self-effacing honesty, not only did he succeed in guiding the newly formed pair on stage through their first date, but also revealed the story behind his own marriage. He explained the show was intended as a gift for his wife – “I think it goes… one year is paper, five years is wood and ten years is an experimental Edinburgh Fringe Festival show” – and this made it easy to answer the questions he posed about our own love lives.
The questions were big ones. What is love? Is it just a chemical, scientific reaction, or something more than that? We heard the scientific theories about how ultimately monogamy is just a strategy for offspring survival and saw MRI scans of our host’s brain on different topics, including his wife and tennis player Anna Kournikova. However, the softer and more human side of things was soon revealed through the first date which unfolded in front of us. It’s always difficult to know how successful a play might be on any given performance when it hinges so much on audience members, but in this play things are far less down to chance and much more down to Drummond’s skill in utilising the awkwardness of non-actors on stage to reveal the absolute reality of a first date’s inelegance.
In Fidelity strikes the perfect balance between gravity and comedy, exploring big-picture themes through a warm and comfortable performance. The brilliance of the script, combined with Drummond’s skill at putting an audience at ease, really shines in this performance and for any Fringe-goers who are a bit tired of the typical use of audience participation for laughs, this play is a breath of fresh air.
In Fidelity is playing The Traverse Theatre until August 28.
Image by Eoin Carey