People Show have been producing work for more than 50 years which, given the self-indulgence of People Show 130 (or The Last Straw, to give its more Fringe-friendly title), is something of a surprise. This is a work that’s needlessly puzzling, inherently boring and very occasionally startling in turns, although it's most often the latter for not particularly interesting reasons: an exercise in theatre-training that’s somehow escaped out into the real world.
This is a work that's needlessly puzzling, inherently boring and very occasionally startling.
But what's going on? There's a man (Gareth Brierley), dressed in purple and pink; there's a woman (Fiona Creese) mainly in green. They talk, more or less intensely, for the best part of an hour, sometimes at each other, sometimes at where they were standing just moments before, sometimes into each others' faces. "Here’s a thing. Where are the Philippines?" he asks at the start, without thought of looking for a map. "With great stories come great truths," he adds, portentously. Frankly, it's too easy for the mind to wander, to become distracted by the setting, and what it contains.
Within Summerhall’s Demonstration Room, where who knows what veterinary lectures were once given, People Show have created a circular performance space carpeted in shredded white paper. (Using newspapers might have been more symbolically appropriate, given the supposed theme here.) The space is partly illuminated by floodlights erected in four "corners". In the centre there's an erect door in a frame (which is opened precisely once during the show) with a dog-shaped draft excluder at its base. There's a fan, some heaters; and, distractingly, a hamster cage in the rear which is, annoyingly, not featured once, so why is it there?
At one point Brierley tells the story of self-serving, authoritarian bears elected by warring squirrels who just want things to get better, while Creese tells of a lost grey parrot in the park, which she fears has been brutally killed by seagulls. Genuinely upset, she then repeats a happier version of events which Brierley whispers in her ear; and for one, brief glorious moment People Show 130 actually works. But, alas, it doesn't last.