Robert Golding

[author-post-rating] (3/5 stars)

This is a short, sharp shock of a show, which tries to pack a little too much in and almost succeeds. A husband and wife, Robert and Jennifer, are having dinner, celebrating the imminent opening of Jennifer’s new restaurant. The restaurant’s architect, Mark, joins them. It starts slowly, with the script feeling a little creaky and un-naturalistic, but once it gets going it really flies until the very end.

After a lot of exposition (Robert’s a rationalist who works with money; Jennifer’s more credulous and the restaurant is a lifelong dream; Mark’s a perfectionist), we get down to business. Mark and Robert have a past, of sorts. As we delve deeper into what this past might be, which skeletons are lurking in Robert’s closets, Owen Thomas’s script picks up and ramps up the tension. The conversations between the two men, fitted around Jennifer flitting in and out to the kitchen, are superbly imagined and incredibly tense. The dialogue is snappy, the exchanges witty and whole thing begins to feel really exciting.

Jennifer’s character feels a bit thin to begin with; there are times when she feels more like a plot device than a fully-fledged character, but because the show rattles along with such speed and covers so much ground it’s easy to overlook this. It quickly emerges that Mark’s a conspiracy theorist, and in Thomas’s clever and sparky script, his preposterous theories are so hilariously fluent that they are almost convincing, even for an avowed sceptic like me. As the play reaches its mad climax, though, it all falls apart a bit. It’s not clear whether Mark is mad or telling the fantastical truth, and after a lot of explanation at the beginning, the ending is rushed and muddled. Too much happens in the last few moments to get your head round, and the cleverness of the plot up to this point is washed away.

It’s a shame that the ending is so truncated, as before this Robert Golding is a mad, wild ride, which almost carries off its convoluted plot.

Robert Golding is at Assembly Roxy until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.