Sperm, unlike plays, don’t need a reason to exist; indeed their very quick reality is spent entirely searching for meaning. The main issue with Glue then, a set of three short plays all in some loose way concerned with spermatozoa, is that it has no thrust or purpose. The sticky topic and its narratives just feel mostly at odds with each other through the fragmented sections.
The opening tale finds two women taking a test to judge their viability for motherhood. Although the dystopian future they live in, a world where sperm is a valuable resource and parenthood a widely shared experience, is interesting, it’s also badly sketched and confusing. The two do the best they can with the heavy-handed script but struggle with its more physical elements. What should be a tense stand off at the close becomes almost silly in the exaggerated movements and unsurprising reveal.
The second, an Alan Bennett-style monologue of sorts, finds a repressed teacher recounting an encounter with a particularly virile student. Whilst the actor maintains a solid presence throughout delivery, his voice frustratingly wavers between the aforementioned Bennett impression and a more cracked tone. Again also, the link to sperm is so fleeting and brief that it feels an almost unnecessary contrivance shoehorned in to give the trio some sense of thematic consistency. Undoubtedly there can be intriguing short plays about the fluid, but it is only in the third piece that Glue grows fertile.
Certainly the show’s highlight, the final portion finds two struggling actors dressed as egg and sperm respectively, both rehearsing their lines for educational assemblies as well as musing on the viability of a career in acting. The parallels here, between the astronomically small chance of fertilisation and even slimmer odds of having a viable acting career are cleverly done and well judged, with the ludicrous costumes both actors wear only adding to the incomprehensibility of the entire enterprise. The sperm in particularly here must be lauded – a moving and honest portrayal by an actor capable of whizzing around the audience in one moment and become reflective in the next.
Glue is a missed opportunity, really. With the staging, actors and script all feeling slightly below the quality level they should be. Glue isn’t shooting blanks, but it’s not far off.
Glue is at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 20) until 24 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.