Inheritance Blues is a perfect fit for the talented DugOut Theatre performers. The three-piece band, The Hot Air Ballues, tell the story of their first job, playing at a wake in Dorset pub. There they meet three brothers, at odds with one another over the inheritance of their dead father. The performance is a fun and impressive blend of music, storytelling and self-consciously blokeish humour. Its excellent pacing balances riotous saxophone battles with deftly handled poignancy.
The individuation of the characters is this production’s real strength. The distinct and sharply drawn personalities don’t just create humour (which is abundant), but they also generate the narrative. Within the band, the assured, bravura-filled Scissorhands (Ed MacArthur) wants to seal a contract deal and hold the band together, whilst the anxious and defiant Kingpin (Luke Murphy) wants his fee or to scarper. Amongst the brothers, the authoritative, straight-laced, boarding-school educated Robert (Tom Black) wants to create a hotel (or “restaurant with bedrooms”) out of duty to his father, whilst his partially-estranged brothers (who didn’t go to boarding school) want him to get real.
Inheritance Blues is more than straight-up domestic comedy. The form of the production serves to foreground the way in which stories are constructed, as products of subjective memory and experience. The band often interrupt each other during their retrospective account (framed by wicked jump-cuts signalled by beats on a cajon) and they present edits to the story as it progresses. This draws attention to the more significant acts of collaborative and conflicting remembrance going on between the brothers, who have very different ideas about who their father really was. This frames ‘inheritance’ as just as much vulnerable, unstable and personal memories as the material possessions handed down through a will.
Now over two years old, Inheritance Blues is very well oiled. As a consequence, though, the company is often a little too relaxed and comfortable in its ways, and there’s definitely more space for improvisation and spontaneity. I first saw the show in 2012, and whilst I still enjoyed it a lot this second time around, I didn’t feel that I was getting anything different from the repeated experience. This is an excellently devised show, with exceptional musical moments – it should capitalise on its spirit of live storytelling, rather than relax into the cosy stability that its form so ably critiques.
Inheritance Blues is at Pleasance Courtyard until 25 August. For more information and tickets, visit the EdFringe website.