The Contest, Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh

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The Independent Culture

This new play from the San Francisco playwright Jennifer Rowland starts well. Set in the paint-spattered milieu of art students it pits the school’s two brightest stars – who also happen to be in love – against one another in the end-of-year graduation contest. Around the same time, Faith, a younger and less talented artist, erupts into their cosy twosome and sets about proving the old adage that three's a crowd.

Which do they prize more dearly – their relationship or artistic success? How far will they go to attain that success (and does cheating matter?)? And what does artistic success even mean? Is it a loft in Tribeca, a cover of Frieze magazine and a mid-career retrospective at the Whitney or should one devote one’s life to creating a single sublime masterpiece?

Rowland’s script bursts full of intriguing what-ifs in the initial minutes but, aside from a change of scene niftily orchestrated on Steve Markus' pleasing set, she fails to take her characters anywhere interesting. The final segment, completing the picture a decade or so later sags massively and descends into soapy melodrama. Ultimately hers is a vision of the art scene painted with far too broad a brush.

To 30 Aug (0131 622 6552)

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