Edinburgh 2013: Hope Light and Nowhere - A searing but bleak and gloomily absurdist piece

Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

The second play by Bruntwood Prize-winning playwright Andrew Sheridan, Hope Light and Nowhere isn’t overly imbued with the first two: it’s a searing but bleak and gloomily absurdist piece set in a post-apocalyptic future where we eat rats, corpses proliferate, and it always rains.

Two boys are in a dank room; one curled into himself, timid, the other pugnacious, in bother boots and braces. But the power balance is constantly in flux - they’re belligerent, wary, yet strangely co-dependent... all very Pinter. Later, a grinning, creepy old man in a suit turns up, with his eyes on those boots... all very Beckett.

Characters tell stories of the violent world outside, and of the days before the obscure disaster, but it’s hard to tell what’s “real” even within the play’s own logic, and what are flights of fancy; as one survivor says repeatedly, “it’s funny what you forget, how you remember”.

Sheridan’s play, directed by Suba Das, bursts at the seams with vivid but nasty visions, and is darkly comic (“we’re a pair of rotting hemorrhoids clinging to god’s arsehole.”) The simmering atmosphere and evocative re-told fantasies also recall Philip Ridley. But that’s a problem: while the language feels urgent, the setting feels familiar, as the whole been-there-before dystopian future thing liberates writers to go as wild as they like. Nevertheless, the actors rise superbly to the occasion, and Sheridan is clearly one to watch - especially if he could find fresh material to match his fierce way with words.

Till 26 August (0844 545 8252)