The Titanic Orchestra, Edinburgh Fringe review: John Hannah sinks in bizarre Bulgarian drama

The Scottish filmstar plays a Harry Houdini figure in a play about illusions and escape

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John Hannah returns to the Scottish stage for the first time in 25 years to play Harry Houdini in an absurdist drama by the Bulgarian writer Hristo Boytchev.

It is an odd choice for a comeback - not least because Hannah is on stage rather sporadically - and it is one that does not really pay off.

The setting is an abandoned railway station - abandoned but for a quartet of tramps who spend their days plotting their great escape. They never manage to leave, though, thanks to the dregs of alcohol that are chucked out of the windows of the trains that never, ever stop. So far, so Beckett-lite. Then, one day a mysterious American in a top hat and spats arrives, seemingly offering them a magical ticket out.

Hannah is fine - with a neat line in sleight of hand trickery - but it's a thin part and the metaphysical speeches he spouts about life being an illusion verge on claptrap. The rest of the cast are rather good at conjuring up an air of hopeless despair and ennui, but by the end of a rather fruitless 70 minutes, I found they couldn't vanish fast enough. 

Pleasance Courtyard, to 31 August (0131 556 6550; www.edfringe.com)

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