On the Edge

‘This is much more than just a tale of physical erosion off the coast’, promises the flyer for newly written play On the Edge. A first facetious thought is ‘you would hope so’, but in the end it is a relevant line because it sums this production up: in its quest to be a quirky tale it becomes a strange mix of styles that, while often interesting, never quite sticks.

The plot sees a group of siblings, who have all gone their own ways, assemble at their family home to attempt to remove their renegade father from it before it falls into the sea. It therefore touches on all the usual unfortunate themes of family reunions: arguments, regret, reminiscing, apologising and ultimately displays of begrudging affection. The set was extensive, with a very high production value and a superb attention to detail, down to arrays of mugs, bottles of wine and even a stack of vintage LPs that were all referenced in the script. The music for the play was provided by jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie and John Coltrane, which was a relaxed addition that supported the cast who, although reliable, sometimes verged a little on being shouty.

However, the contradictions in the piece’s presentation were off-putting. I had the style pinned down as naturalistic because that went some way to justifying why characters’ lines kept overlapping and they kept speaking over each other. This wasn’t especially troubling, until a surreal tango sequence during which the lights switch to a soft orange wash and the cast cavort around together despite having previously all expressed an inability to dance. This scene ended as abruptly as it had inexplicably started. Similar issues of oscillating between extremities included the dialogue moving from swearing and shouting to extensive quoting of Shakespeare and the actors moving from the back of the stage until they were perilously close to the front. This was an attempt to leave no stone unturned, but instead left the cast unable to settle.

The plot was excellent and the script solid, but this apparent confusion with dramatic direction was disconcerting. At an hour and twenty minutes it drags a tad toward the end, but it is resolved satisfactorily and is a firm performance that had the potential to be better.

Reviews by James Dolton

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The Blurb

Frank deals with the coastal erosion of his cliff top home and his disintegrating lifestyle in a Prospero like way, uniting his family and accepting his destiny in one last, brave, magical act. www.theatreontheedge.co.uk.

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