Review: Wil Greenway: The Ocean After All, Underbelly Bristo Square, Edinburgh Fringe

“G’Day!” Wil Greenway cries, in his cheeky, charming way. Laughter escapes his boisterous beard, the sound rolling down his shirt and shorts to reach his bare feet. As with previous works (The Way The City Ate The Stars, These Trees The Autumn Leaves Alone) he quickly reaches out and closes the door on the outside world. The audience hang on to his every word as his sentences swell and break like waves. Sand shimmers between your toes, salt sits on your skin. It is only when a bottle nods from the surface of the ocean that his story lands on paper. 

In The Ocean After All, we are somewhere between the city and the sea. Marooned on an island off the Australian coastline, we follow our footprints around the fringes of the beach. Although this place is new, it feels entirely familiar. The sunrise sticks to your hair and Greenway is effervescent with joy. This is the kind of event that reminds you of the sheer awesomeness of being alive – he isn’t just a teller of stories, he’s a magician.

And so, you’re here, you’re there, you’re everywhere. Together, you make up for lost time and without warning, an entire year passes in one hour. The narrative is almost biblical. It has the feeling of a morality tale – something sacred and far-reaching. It’s funny too, deliciously so. It is easy to see why Greenway’s shows have sold-out for four years running. He is the type of human to get lost with. A natural navigator to help hold your fists against the night, knuckle to knuckle, star to star.

Caught between the elements, The Ocean After All returns to its roots frequently. From those splashes of rain that turn into a storm, to the tears that decorate the face of a loved one, water connects performer, spectator and character. The power of the deep blue is intoxicating, making the pool of surrounding strangers into friends not yet met. Greenway also manages to find beauty in the smallest of details, his voice thick with poetry. His biggest fears too, are made known. Like the tide he draws you in, sweeping you away to another place entirely, before bringing you home to yourself. It is almost as if you had never left.

Wil Greenway: The Ocean After All is playing at Underbelly Bristo Square until 25 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.