On The Beach[author-post-rating] (2/5)

On the Beach is a whimsical, sweet-natured show that rather overstays its welcome. A one-man piece, where performer John Osborne tells us about a lunchtime walk on the beach, it’s pleasant enough to listen to but feels overlong. Osborne touches on deeper issues of loneliness, childhood and family, but without ever exploring these ideas more deeply the piece is thin. His reminiscences and stories are gently charming, and are broken up by wobbly camera footage of olde time seaside resorts. The overall effect is rather insubstantial.

Osborne himself is a genial and pleasant performer, although his rather hesitant and halting delivery does not help his material to bear more weight. I wanted more than his descriptions of the seaside towns he knows and the people he encounters on his stroll along the beach. The script is gently poetic without ever rising into greatness, and as Osborne imagines the backstory of all the people he meets it has a pleasing sense of realism and nostalgia. The show is a perfectly fine way to spend an hour but it isn’t going to change any lives.

That’s not the point, of course, and that’s fine, too, but it’s slightly frustrating that Osborne doesn’t go any deeper or develop the stories he tells further. It’s a celebration of the peculiarly English¬†phenomenon¬†of the run-down seaside town, full of tiny windmills, buckets and spades, and thermos flasks of tea, but apart from a brief foray into the arcades along the sea front it shies away from the darker side of impoverished towns that subsist on selling tacky souvenirs to tourists.

Osborne makes a good case for the gentle nostalgia inspired by being by the seaside, but it’s all a bit laboured. A nice break from the hectic hustle of the Fringe, this show paddles in the shallows without ever taking the plunge.

On the Beach is at the Pleasance Dome until 26 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Festival Fringe website.