Holes by Tom Basden

Lyons Productions returns to Edinburgh with Holes, an apocalyptic farce from Tom Basden, writer of hit TV shows Fresh Meat and Plebs. The result is an underwhelming hour and a half of poor quality acting and grating humour.

Ultimately fails to do justice to either the comedy or tragedy of the play.

The play opens on the beaches of a desert island where four characters are the sole survivors of a mysterious plane crash in a story that is part Lost, part Peep Show, part Lord of the Flies. Three of them are colleagues from DBS (Davidson Business Solutions) on their way to a conference; one is an unfortunate sixteen-year-old girl. A highly unconvincing broken radio exchange apparently indicates that the rest of the world has been destroyed through nuclear war and so the four characters stop waiting for help to come and begin coming to terms with life on the island.

In a script that is packed with quips, the gravity of the above situation is very much not the focus; at least not initially. Jokes are delivered with a quantity over quality ethos so that good lines are often lost amongst the jumble of poorer ones. The opening events are treated with a callous triviality by two characters, Ian and Marie, while the other two, Gus and Erin, feel slightly more grave about the whole affair. This formal division, which sees Ian and Marie function as comic characters and the other two as straight, gives rise to a large part of the production’s feelings of clumsiness. All four are extremely unlikeable so that when drama finally does arise, and we are expected to connect and empathise, it is very hard to care what becomes of any of them.

Some poor acting further inhibits the audience’s connection to this story. Jack Smail at times shows some good comic timing as self-appointed leader Ian, but often fumbles his lines and is generally unconvincing when he reaches any of the play’s more challenging moments. Sophy Dexter is funny and promising as the vacuous office ditz Marie but the one-dimensionality of the role hinders her from really giving a compelling performance.

The play does make some interesting points. If we accept the rather unbelievable proposition that these four are the only people left on Earth, the play’s concerns with ‘civilisation going backwards’ are thought-provoking. Knowledge and skills are lost and HR speak can’t be put to any good use.

Unfortunately, however, these more pressing moments are overshadowed by the production’s general clunkiness. It ultimately fails to do justice to either the comedy or tragedy of the play.

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The Blurb

An absurd, fast-paced comedy by Tom Basden, the writer of some of Britain's most acclaimed TV comedies (Fresh Meat, Plebs). Flight BA043 has crashed on an island. Stranded, four survivors wait. Surely somebody will find them. Planes don't just disappear, do they? And, if no one's coming… what do they do now? Lyons Productions returns to the Edinburgh Fringe a year after their highly successful first show, Tom Basden's Party. ‘Masterclass of a show’ ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Satirical theatre which holds its own alongside bigger venues and budgets’ **** (Nouse).