“It’s easier to speak to a stranger than define the parameters of your relationship with a partner.”
Middle Child theatre is following in its tracks after last year’s critically acclaimed All We Ever Wanted Was Everything (playing again this year at Summerhall, and a top recommendation for the Fringe) with a brand new piece of gig theatre about intimacy, strangers and loneliness in the city. Someone I spoke with on the way out told me they wouldn’t be able to tell someone the plot, and I think that’s great; I think that’s almost the point.
As critics/reviewers/watchers of live performance, we’re almost intrinsically inclined to categorise everything we see into a genre of pre-existing conventions. One Life Stand doesn’t let us do that: it breaks the form. It calls itself an “Event” in the Fringe’s list of subcategories. One of the major beauties of this work is that it never tries to ground itself in time; it even transcends the space of the city it’s living in. Because ultimately, it’s not in its city: it’s at the Roundabout at Summerhall, and it’s there the whole time with its audience. Its trio of performers (Ed Cole, Tanya Loretta Dee and Anna Mitchelson) speak and sing into handheld microphones. They’re often found sitting on the steps in the audience.
MoMo (Mitchelson) is a politically charged young woman; she’s torn between reading the Communist Manifesto and taking selfies. She tells Kit (Cole) she thinks that he should strike at work. Kit buys a cat off of gumtree and rides a bike for Deliveroo. Kit and Kat have been going strong for four years, but Kit now struggles to get an erection and Kat tells us with the lyrical poetry of Eve Nicol’s script that life is “skimming across the surface of my orgasm.” Despite these troubles, they have their own cat language, with meows that only they will understand. Nicol’s text is sort of dreamlike; we listen, we don’t always follow, but we feel. It captures moments and they’re gone in a blink. It’s sort of magically non-narrative. And the characters feel fully fleshed out, with completely naturally occurring dialogue. Dee’s monologue about us fucking ourselves over is powerfully, touchingly delivered. She never looks like she’s acting for a second; it’s all coming from the heart. And it hits us. Hard.
Vibrant lighting design floods the floor with purples, oranges, blues and greens. The whole show is absorbed with colour, in a city of loneliness where everyone is terrified of the dark. And with James Frewer and Honeyblood’s music, you can just completely lose yourself in the haze of Hull in the night-time.
One Life Stand is playing Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 26 August 2018. For more information and tickets, click here.
Photo: Jazz Harbord