[author-post-rating] (4/5 Stars)

Having shined during the BE Festival and subsequently toured as part of the Best of Be Festival, Spanish performance makers Atresbandes bring their hilarious performance Solfatara to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Depicting the crumbling relationship of Mònica Almirall and Miquel Segovia, this hour long piece shows the intensity and force which a relationship can have upon an individual and a couple. Miquel, manifesting his fear in physical form, struggles to tell Mònica that his quietness comes from his dislike of her puff pastry obsession that leaves the house, and her, smelling of pastry all day and night. Whilst Mònica, fuelled by her own inner demons, submits to crying endlessly in an attempt to hold herself together and to truly love Miquel. This is undercut by the physical presence of the fear that sits upon their shoulders and shouts what they really are thinking, inching them closer to breaking point.

Solfatara, delivered in Spanish with clever and increasingly witty surtitles is an unexpected joy, combining razor-sharp dialogue with spectacular delivery from this young ensemble. Not being too precious with its work, Atresbandes knows exactly the right amount of pressure to apply to this piece, as the person operating the surtitles struggles and gives up altogether, and the pieces spirals into slapstick foolery. For an English-speaking audience, it’s refreshingly sharp to watch, offering laugh-out-loud moments alongside darker and trickier looks at relationships and dominance.

It’s not just a fine piece of performance work that makes Solfatara an enjoyable watch. There’s a level of maturity and beauty within the written text, too. It’s poetic and poignant, offsetting the hilarity of the action that dominates in this piece.

If there are some negatives to the piece, of which there are few, they are to do with the tempo of the work and the continuation of the slapstick humour. It’s slightly pushed too much during some scenes and, whilst never falling into farce, it does feel unnecessary. That said, Solfatara really is an undiscovered gem not only at the Edinburgh Fringe, but in the wider theatre community. They’ve been hailed by BE Festival, and one hopes that other festivals or producers will be able to give this company deserved attention. This really is one of those pieces of work that makes you say “I’ve never seen anything like it before”.

Solfatara is playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 25 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website. Photography by Alex Brenner.