Killing Time is one of those plays which is bound to succeed because of its unique situation, and indeed Andrew Edwards’ play is so far and yet reverberates so near to any audience member. The far-fetched starting point is that the world is ending – there a vague explanation as to why, but it doesn’t really matter because Edwards has written characters that come to matter to us.
Edwards doesn’t patronise the audience; there’s no exposition about why the world’s ending or the relationship between these two unnamed boys (played by Callum O’Dwyer and Joe McArdle) – because who has time for all that with just an hour to live? The point is, there’s something very tender about Edward’s writing in the way he privatises their relationship. For the last hour of their lives, they essentially have a chat about sex, what could have been and why they aren’t spending their last moments with their families. The answer is that there’s a strange unspoken bond between these two boys, which is played very subtly by both actors. Their rapport is funny one moment, then McArdle is painfully upfront and uncaring, yet bubbling beneath it all is an endearing relationship.
This is broken up by a pretty wet performance from Amy Plender as a young girl who’s brother has left her to spend her last moments alone and scared, and is wanting to end it all before nature does. The boys’ respective reactions are intriguing to watch, and other than exemplifying how they’re oddly such different personalities, it’s an opportunity to reveal that McArdle has a soft side beneath the bravado too. Delivery is calm and collected, with vulnerable undertones. As a much more emotional and open character, O’Dwyer is absolutely loveable. He could have a violin accompanying him and his performance still couldn’t make you feel more for him. With no set but a small platform, the director places the focus upon these two actors – and rightly so, because their performance is so professional, bearing many nuances.
This compact space and concise script reflect how much they mean to one another as they stand at the edge of the end of the world. EUTC’s simple production is simply heartwarming to watch, and showcases superb young acting talent with these wonderfully constructed characters. This is a play which makes me ask myself: what would I do if the world was about to end in an hour? And on this trail of thought, it’s very difficult not to become emotional.
**** – 4/5 stars
Killing Time played at Bedlam Theatre until 25 August as part of the Edinburgh Festival.