Bytesize Theatre

August 21, 2021 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆      Welcome

Fringe Player Online: Sun 15 – Mon 30 Aug 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

The lack of time to plan for live theatre at this year’s Fringe has not deterred the Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group. Bytesize Theatre is a collection of three new plays presented on the online Fringe Player. The three pieces are not all equally impressive, but each has intriguing elements.

Eirini Stamkou, Tonya Winters, Alan Sunter and Tim Bond in Ripe for Improvement. Screengrab: All Edinburgh Theatre

First up is Ripe for Improvement, written and directed by Hilary Spiers. Shot in an actual location with real people genuinely interacting, this is something of a novelty among recent online offerings.

There is also a certain freshness to the story of a homeowner and prospective buyers who are all willing to go to peculiar lengths to get what they want.

The cast – Tim Bond, Alan Sunter, Tonya Winters and Eirini Stamkou – make an accomplished ensemble. At first the performances seem oddly heightened, but it soon becomes clear that they are perfect for this slice of nasty suburban absurdity, that breezes along for its quarter-hour running time.

Some of the cuts are on the jarring side, and being presented on a screen means that moments that would appear pleasingly preposterous on stage instead look at times like a (very slightly) exaggerated soap opera, but it is not necessarily the worse for that.

Grace Gilbert and Charise Green in Guilty Animals. Screengrab: All Edinburgh Theatre

The bulk of the running time is taken up by Guilty Animals, written by Dug Campbell and directed by Jenny Tamplin. The now-familiar Zoom call method of telling a story is much used, but mixed in with recorded interviews and footage from a doorbell cam.

The story of a decorated, traumatised firefighter whose efforts to find happiness have tragic effects is told in reverse chronological order. This can be a dangerous strategy – knowing the end result at the beginning renders much of the rest unnecessary, and it can also be thoroughly irritating. However, it is done with economy and no little elegance, with the whole story being teased out as we journey backwards.

Michael Brown is suitably crumpled as firefighter Ryan, with Grace Gilbert, Charise Greene, Michael Robert-Brown and Alastair Lawless giving the various other figures considerable life. The conversations do begin to repeat themselves after a while, and not everything is dramatically necessary – with ten minutes shaved off its running time, this would have been a tauter, more impressive piece.

Khadine Hardie, Hilary Davies and Alan Patterson in The Report. Screengrab: All Edinburgh Theatre

No such complaints with The Report, written and directed by Martin Foreman. This clocks in at only ten minutes, but not a second is wasted in this tale of blame and guilt, part corporate hearing, part hellish nightmare.

The Zoom call format is perfectly used here, with Khadine Hardie, Hilary Davies and Alan Patterson chillingly versatile in the three roles. The script is ingeniously structured and this segment is probably worth the ticket price on its own.

One of the most melancholy aspects of this year’s reduced Fringe is the absence of all of those Edinburgh-based companies who can be relied upon year after year – EPT, FCT and so many others. In this light, it is doubly gratifying to have at least some presence from the Grads, even if that distinctly early 2000s-sounding title does not exactly leap off the screen to potential viewers.

Running time 1 hour 12 minutes
Fringe Player, online (Venue 65)
Available on demand from Sunday 15 to Monday 30 August 2021

Information and tickets at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/bytesize-theatre
Company website: https://theegtg.com
Facebook: @edingrads
Instagram: @edingrads
Twitter: @TheGrads

ENDS

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