It was the first truly beautiful summer’s day of the Edinburgh Fringe. With the sun beating down on the city’s parks, I was hardly surprised to see this noon-time performance was less than half-full with audience members. But I, for one, was happy to sacrifice an hour of sunshine to watch this little gem.

Natural, pacy and absorbing

Polko by Angus Harrison and RJG Productions certainly deserves a larger audience than it got today, and I expect that it will. The performance space – Roundabout @ Summerhall – is well worth a visit in its own right, and was a great choice for the play. It’s a yellow, round circus tent in a courtyard, but the interior looks just like Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

The set is simple yet intriguing; a pair of car seats, one beside the other but facing opposite directions. Considering the in-the-round seating plan, this was a great call. As an audience-member, you really can sit anywhere and still get a cracking view. The actors never forget a single face as they distribute their lines fairly between all of us.

The story tells of two ex-schoolmates who attempt to reconnect as adults, now that they are both living with their parents. Rosie Dwyer gives a likeable and cheeky performance as Emma, and her chemistry with Elliot Norman’s Joe is fun to watch. As Joe, Norman gives a compelling performance with a rough-around-the-edges-but-a-heart-of-gold charm. And John Macneill is wonderfully sympathetic as the well-meaning Peter, whose tragicomic recent events really pull on your heartstrings. All three were fantastic casting, and they delivered a wholly natural and believable performance.

Praise also goes to the play’s dialogue. One of my pet peeves is speech that sounds fake and forced, so I was glad to see this script never fell into this trap. Natural, pacy and absorbing. The plot, however, I found a bit difficult to summarise upon reflection, as it was essentially lots of nuggets of story all happening near each other, most of them not especially connecting.

While I was in the middle of watching it, the story was very much grabbing my attention, introducing fascinating story elements that I was sure would pay off at the end, such as the discovery of a dark family past and a possible supernatural element (which gave me an excited chill and made me lean forwards upon hearing it) as well as a curious medical mystery. Sadly, none of these threads came together or manifested as more than decoration, to my disappointment.

And the ending left me feeling just a tad confused, but I shan’t give away any spoilers. While there’s every chance I may have missed something, my eyes and ears were on the performers the entire time, as they were incredibly watchable, and Director Emily Ling Williams did a superb job of staging it so there was always something interesting to watch, no matter your angle. This gave the piece a suitably filmic quality that sucked me in.

Overall, I recommend you check it out, if not for its destination, then for the ride. With its strong cast and talented creatives, it’s a great way to spend an hour.

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Reviews by Jasmine Arden-Brown

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The Blurb

As teenagers, Emma, Joe and Polko thought they’d never grow apart. Then time passed. When Emma returns to the suburb of their childhood 10 years later she discovers nothing, and everything, has changed. Joe is stuck, living with his mum while working part-time in a hotel; and Polko has vanished, leaving a cloud of stories and misremembered nights in his wake. Set in the front seats of a parked car, Polko is a modern memory play about the places we call home, and the people we leave behind.

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