The Fiddler’s Elbow
Edinburgh 2013: Waist - A well observed combination of the fantastical and prosaic
Nat comes home, drunk, to be sick in the shower; she goes back out again to take pills and have a dance. Her morbid, death-obsessed boyfriend Robert and his friend Simon, who helpfully spent the day cleaning ground-up bones out of a cremulator, stay in, sniffing glue and poppers (“mainly headaches”).
They discuss the merits - or lack thereof - of the sea view that is the sole selling point of Rob and Nat’s crappy flat: “it’s just water, isn’t it?”
Admittedly, another benefit is not paying rent: the flat belongs to Yani, a fat old friend of Nat’s from home (an undisclosed Eastern European country) who runs the kebab shop that seems to feed all the inhabitants of their - also unnamed - small, run-down seaside town. But Yani is missing; the drunken mobs bay for their kebabs, and then a grisly rumour spreads about his death…
Written by young playwright Toby Parker-Rees, the first half of Waist thrives on well-observed dialogue, capturing a youthful ennui with scathing accuracy. It has a convincing rhythm, and is often funny without losing an air of authenticity or seeming try-hard. Until, that is, a wildly surreal swerve. A satyr comes amongst the audience, in hoof-like shoes and haunchily bent legs, telling good-time tales of an island where nymphs used to frolic with satyrs with “lovely great erections” like “meat may-poles” - until humans turned up one day. Revenge is a dish best served spiky, it seems.
This creature directly addresses the audience as “the monster”, trying to rouse us to make noise, to dance; we gamely stamp our feet, help recite a poem-song.
Enlivening audiences is all very well, but it’s not entirely clear what role we’re being cast in here, or why, and the writing loses focus. Parker-Rees clearly has theatrical ambition and imagination - although director Rory Atwood could do with re-considering sight lines; even in this tiny, pub room, making your characters too poor to afford furniture has unfortunate visibility implications whenever they sit down.
The fantastical and prosaic elements do eventually tie-off neatly, and attempting to go beyond just a well-observed character piece is laudable. But it’s the nicely rendered interactions between the characters that stay with you, not the zany interactions between satyr and audience. But Waist is the sort of experimental, showing-promise, in-a-pub, free show that really does embody that oft-trumpeted ‘spirit of the fringe’.
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