God’s Own Country is a heartwarming romance turned harrowing drama about a young Yorkshire lad who takes his affections for the girl next door way too far.
Young farmer Sam Marsdyke, played by Kyle Ross, weaves a chilling tale about life as a lonely teenager living in the Yorkshire moors, sometimes referred to as God’s own country. When middle class “new people” from the south move in next door, he becomes besotted with their daughter, much to the horror of both their parents. Rebelling against her snobbish parents, the girl takes an interest in Sam, in his dirty blue fleece and muddy boots. They decide to run away together into the moors.
Ross himself is charismatic and his social awkwardness as Sam is endearing. For a large part of this solo show, you’re rooting for a tale of forbidden love with a happy ending. But the swerve towards its unsettling end is enough to cause whiplash.
Adapted from Ross Raisin’s novel of the same name, Fine Mess Theatre presents a tragic story of a lonely oddball turned fully-fledged maniac, and despite the alarming nature of the twist, it manages to do so tenderly, without fully making us lose our love for Sam. At first his eccentric mind, which can have conversations with its own thoughts, puppies and inanimate objects, is a comedic device. It’s not until things take a dark turn, and Sam ends up holding the girl captive in a cave, that we realise that the signs were there all along. The sexual tension was not exciting, but sinister. The schoolboy taunts of ‘rapist’ were based in truth. And Sam’s measured exterior was in fact starting to show some cracks.
Ross has a little more understated style of storytelling than some of the other solo shows at the Fringe, nevertheless, his dry wit has us falling a little bit in love with him but fuels our disgust when events take a turn for the worst. By the end, it’s hard to listen to as Ross conjures up image after image but, despite the minimalist set – a softly lit wooden block surrounded by hay – the story is vivid, disturbing and artfully told.
God’s Own Country plays at Zoo Southside until 25 August 2014 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.