Internal, Mercure Point Hotel, Edinburgh

Hot date for the diary

Alice Jones
Monday 17 August 2009 00:00

Five actors, five audience members. Can theatre get any more intimate? Well, yes, actually. Throw in a cosy booth, a shared tot of whisky, ecstatically soaring strings and some very personal questions and you have Internal.

Not for the shy or easily flustered, this half-hour show sits somewhere between speed-dating and a group therapy session. What is has to do with theatre is initially less than clear but Internal comes with a fine dramatic pedigree, at least.

It's the work of the Belgian company Ontroerend Goed who have previously hyped up the Edinburgh Fringe with their shows The Smile off Your Face and the epically titled Once and for All We're Going to Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen. Now they're back in the city and in keeping with their unerring eye for event theatre, their latest show takes place in a special Fringe venue, the sterile conference centre of the three-star Mercure Point Hotel. For the purposes of Internal its rooms have been entirely disguised, transformed with black drapes, gauzy curtains and soft lighting into a kind of theatrical womb.

Entering into it, the five-person "crowd" is lined up on five crosses in a dating identity parade before a curtain rises to reveal the "five performers in search of a partner". All young and attractive and dressed as though for a dinner date in an exclusive yet cool restaurant, they stand nose-to-toe with us, gazing into our eyes. Confrontational? Flirtatious? Forward? Well that depends on how you choose to react.

Silently, they choose which audience member they want. And suddenly I'm being led, my date's arm draped chummily (creepily?) around my shoulders, into a tiny cubbyhole. A gulp of Famous Grouse and I'm introducing myself to Oliver, my blind date/therapist, an angelic young man with intense eyes and a soothing whisper of voice. He probes me with all manner of questions, gently escalating in intrusiveness, and then...

To reveal too much more would ruin the show. Suffice to say our conversation encompassed relationships, chocolate, a tropical beach and ummm... Michael Jackson (the last one was probably my fault).

And that's the point. It's a show from which you take precisely as much as you're prepared to put in. How much you wish to reveal and to let yourself go is, not quite entirely, up to you. The company creates a surprisingly intimate mood in a short time but it all feels a little too false, too theatrical perhaps, to have an overwhelming emotional effect. Still, the beauty of a show like this is that everyone will experience it in his or her own way – and it's an experience not to be missed.

To 30 Aug, shows throughout the day from 2pm to 9.30pm (0131-228 1404)

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