Dugout theatre company returns to the Fringe with Fade, a play about the pursuit of meaning and its detrimental consequences. Danny has turned to romantic love, Imogen and Andrew to art. Danny’s love is unrequited and directed at a girl he has not been with in years, the aptly named Imogen (pun on ‘imagine’), who has begun to exist solely as an idolised figure of his imagination. Danny has recently been driven to antidepressants and antipsychotics, although it is left unclear whether this instability has been a cause or effect of his infatuation. Somewhere along the line, Danny’s happiness has been sacrificed. Imogen and Andrew, an actress and a director with suspicious artistic techniques, have sacrificed something else: their morality.
Danny is also a journalist. He has recently seen Imogen, after many years, on stage playing Ophelia and decided to interview her and Andrew, the man directing her new film, with subconscious delusions about them rekindling their long past romance. This piece is not one to tell you how to feel, but flaunts skill and subtlety throughout. Will Barwick’s rendition of Danny kept things far from melodramatic: it was nuanced, nervous and utterly believable.
The script too is poignant, hilarious and far from sentimental. The audience was roaring with laughter from the get-go, with many thanks to Ed Smith’s comic timing as the stoner, punk assistant Perch, and Tom Black’s quirky ice cold confidence as the villainous director.
There was barely any set to speak of, and when a character was not involved in the dialogue they would be sat around the edge of the stage looking on at the action, adding brilliant music or fun sound effects. It is a testament to the script and the acting that these stylised touches enhance the comedy and tension of the piece without distracting. Each moment still felt palpably real. It was as if the cast had been born on stage; it was their world and they were kindly hosting us for the evening.
However, perhaps due to the brutal cutting many shows undergo before being taken to the Fringe, the ending was somewhat abrupt and lacking. Although it contained one delicious plot twist and one deliriously beautiful monologue, the lasting image was neither powerful nor sharp enough to draw the production to a close. It was also a shame that apart from Danny, many of the characters had not been fully realised. It was as if they had run out of time.
Never-the-less, far from fading into the background, Dugout’s new project couples impeccable acting with epic dialogue and is thus a gem of a show that shines through brightly and proudly.