[author-post-rating] (4/5 stars)
Ever felt homesick for a place you’ve never lived? Such is the effect of Cora Bissett’s multi-disciplinary multi-authored mini-odyssey across Scottish cities at night. In this ambitious contemporary nocturne, love and loneliness are the recurring themes, callbacks to the opening conversation that contemplates the minuteness – the near non-existence – of human life, envisioning people as directionless, inconsequential atoms. As if to investigate this theory, we follow various individuals who are, at first, simply another few faces in the crowds of the bustling city, but as we keep pace alongside them for a few minutes at a time, together we’re both humbled and comforted by the endless possibilities the night offers. Overwhelmed by the traffic’s roar or the silence of deserted early morning streets, the jostling of other’s lives against ours, whilst every intimacy and encounter is only a pinprick on the sheer immensity of the city, of the entire universe even.
Anthemic music swells and ebbs as these fragments of narrative play out before, amongst and above the audience – there’s a myriad of drunk partygoers trying their luck, a late-night romance triggered by a case of mistaken identity, a scalding internet love affair that fizzles out in the cold light of day (well, webcam, as it happens). It has to be said that the brief scenelets (from David Greig, Annie Griffin and others), however compelling, can’t quite compete with the often devastating marriage of song and simple, stripped-back visuals. A lonesome man seeking the comfort of strangers, scaling a lamp post like a frightened urban animal, is serenaded by Seafieldroad with a sweet refrain: “you have nothing to be ashamed of”. After a wild night, an aerialist fashions a hammock for herself, and is sung to sleep by Rachel Sermanni’s lovely ode to late-nighters, ‘Lonely Taxi’. Of course, the grandiose, epic nature of it all is a slightly jarring backdrop to the stories so fixed on the miniature and the mundane – a complete sense of intimacy is a little disrupted by the use of microphones – but there’s no denying Bissett’s grandiose, uncompromising vision.
By turns desolating and uplifting, Whatever Gets You Through the Night is a tender and honest love letter not just to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow but any big city from sunset, through the small hours to the dawn of day – a poem for its strangers and strangeness, little hopes and big dreams. Though I can’t say it hangs completely cohesively together (the ‘Chips and Cheese’ song, for example, is more embarrassing than rousing) but there are enough glorious moments of joy and poignancy, disparate snapshots of the losses that haunt us, and the brief connections that bind us to each other and the city itself, to make this a worthy and potent experience quite unlike anything else you’ll encounter at the Fringe.
Whatever Gets You Through The Night is playing at The Queen’s Hall until August 25. For more information and tickets, please see the Edinburgh Fringe website.