Stand and hat, dressing table and mirror, decanter and glass: is this the archetypal room-on-a-stage? Emphatically, yes. And the actress waiting to play, dowdily bathrobed, preening and pecking her smart phone, is she a modern mix of Blanche Dubois and Bridget Jones? Yes again. So then, are we in for a night of cliché and tired old hat? Answer: absolutely not.
A Glass of Nothing knows exactly what it’s doing – and who it’s doing it for
Writer Peter Kenny’s and actor-director Beth Symons’s A Glass of Nothing knows exactly what it’s doing – and who it’s doing it for. The very first lines pop like a Formula 1 celebration and we are delightfully bathed in a stream of deliciously fizzing jokes and observations. Featherweight bliss, this is a real Babysham of a show.
The conceit is that the hapless Beth is granted a wish-fulfilling draft of nothing. She describes the donor of this blessing as a hilarious Marcel Marceau-type character that she has seen the night before, pretending to drink from an empty glass on the very stage she is now standing. This is the first of several wonderful swipes at contemporary theatrical pretension, and when another member of the cast – the excellent Kitty Underhill – explodes from concealment in the audience to lambast some deliberately edgy ‘interaction’, shouting “This is just the sort of Fringe bollocks we’ve come to expect!”, we roar our ascent.
It’s a fairy tale for sure, as Beth finds nothing but her fractured self-image in the lover and career she conjures. Yet, she is perhaps most affecting on her first MDMA-like trip, when her wish for beauty transforms her into a bodiced, burlesque siren. Wonderful, courageous comedy – and touching, too. And it’s during this scene that we are introduced to the comic revelation that is Dylan Corbett-Bader, whose guileless, slapped-with-a frying pan face is as naturally funny as Mel Smith’s Lovely Stuff. The final ‘career’ scene is perhaps a touch AbFab, but there’s great ensemble playing in the office of the rather strangely named Petri Dish Marketing.
What I loved about this show is that it loved me back, answering my frustrations with much new theatre and lampooning our absurd, tragically self-obsessed age but gently. Given a once-over to tighten up the slower bits and to weed out any unnecessary explanation or apology, this piece could hold its own on any stage.