If you are looking for a show that demonstrates exceptional acting and physical theatre skills Tobacco is where you will find it. South African company Baxter Theatre presents this dark comedy as part of the Baxter Theatre Season at Assembly. Triple Fringe First winner Andrew Buckland delivers a hilarious but heart breaking account of a man called Ivan who has suffered years of bullying by his domineering wife. The Edinburgh University lecture theatre is a perfect location for this play as the audience are delivered a lecture on the harmful effects of tobacco.

I will be surprised if Buckland is not nominated for his fourth Fringe First after this stunning performance.

The play begins with Ivan nervously shuffling down the steps of the lecture hall onto the stage with Pachelbel’s Canon in C major playing on the gramophone. His movement has a slapstick quality to it with perfect comedic timing. Buckland is a master of his craft and it is obvious how much work has been put into building his character with the added eye twitches and the clumsy quality to his movement. The set in this play is minimal with just a gramophone, a suitcase and a cut open cylindrical wooden prop that serves as a lectern, a canoe and a box to hide in amongst other things.

He attempts to timidly deliver the lecture but becomes increasingly distracted and goes off on tangents about his wife played by Toni Morkel. He shifts between a confident eccentric façade and a sad worn down soul. Buckland skilfully uses the stage, his costume, the props, anything he can get his hands on to deliver his outstanding performance. He stands on the lectern, then hides behind it, crawls, perches, lies on it. It is like he is rediscovering his own body again in his new found freedom. Ivan’s mind becomes more fragmented as the play progresses which make the audience question which is reality or fantasy.

This play will make you laugh, break your heart and heal it again. While this is not the most gripping or entertaining script at the festival this virtuoso performance makes up for it. I will be surprised if Buckland is not nominated for his fourth Fringe First after this stunning performance.

Reviews by Lynn Rusk

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The Blurb

Triple Fringe First winner Andrew Buckland excels in this haunting and side-splittingly funny two-hander that charts a man's journey towards transformation and metamorphosis. Instructed by his domineering wife to give a lecture on the harmful effects of tobacco (even though he himself is only a small smoker), Ivan discovers the wondrous possibility of being seen and heard for the first time, relishing every moment of his new-found freedom. With her signature, delicate and nuanced style, attention to detail and sublime aesthetic, director Sylvaine Strike once again creates a little gem with massive artistic impact, earning the play several accolades.

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