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Edinburgh 2013: Stuart: A Life Backwards - Fraser Ayres gives an electrifying central performance


There is a stunning performance at the heart of this theatrical adaptation of Alexander Masters' award-winning biography. Fraser Ayres plays Stuart Shorter, a chaotic, garrulous homeless man who has spent his life fighting - abuse, muscular dystrophy, drug addiction, poverty.

When he signs up to join the fight to free two imprisoned homeless charity workers, he meets Alexander, an liberal PhD dropout, played by Will Adamsdale doing what he does best (tousle-haired, middle-class diffidence). As the pair strike up a rapport - it's not quite a friendship - Alexander decides to write Stuart's life, to find out, as his subject poignantly puts it: "What murdered the boy I was?". 

This is a classy show, co-produced by High Tide, which will rightly tour (to Watford and Sheffield) after the Fringe. Jack Thorne's script splits the story into three - the meeting, the writing and the postscript but it is only when it hones in on the intricacies of capturing a life that the play really gets going.

Before that - Ayres' wired, electrifying presence aside - it is rather underpowered with some unnecessary supporting roles distracting from the compelling central twosome. By the end, as it reaches for a devastating answer to Stuart's question, it builds to an emotional pitch that is hard to resist. "I've always thought I'm rather interesting, to be honest," declares Stuart. Tearfully the audience must agree. 

To 26 August (0844 545 8252)