The Second Half

August 19, 2014 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩  Not half bad

Thistle King James Hotel (venue 438) Wed 13 – Mon 25 Aug 2014

New Room Theatre’s The Second Half may be one of the shortest productions in Edinburgh this year, but it provides its fair share of humour and human interest.

 

Mark Jeary. Photo: Tom Nolan

Mark Jeary in Momentum. Photo: Tom Nolan

The Holyrood Suite, a small conference room in the King James Hotel, seems an unpromising venue for this La Favorita Freestival production, but it turns out to be a perfect setting for what is presented as an ‘event’ featuring two ‘motivational speakers’.

It is nothing of the kind, of course; instead there are two short plays on linked subjects. They are billed as being about ‘sport and ageing’, but they have more in common than that. Sarah Barron plays a retired rhythmic gymnast in Rhythm, which she has written with Anne-Marie Comber, while Mark Jeary features in Rob Drummond’s Momentum as a former City trader who is demonstrating his new keep-fit system.

notably self-deluding

The subject matter lends itself naturally to a physical style of acting, whether it is Barron’s elegant ribbon twirling, or Jeary’s scarily intense cardio-vascular workout. Director Sam Wright uses the space well and both performers build up a rapport with the audience.

The two characters are strikingly similar in their outlook, being notably self-deluding and both using their concentration on their sporting activities to avoid facing up to regrets in their lives. There is enough variation to sustain the interest, with both pieces avoiding stereotyping, proving surprisingly poignant and subtle as well as funny. Even in the short running time for each piece there is enough time to build up a rounded and believable character, and the writers and performers should share the credit for this.

The similarity between the two pieces, however, makes the ‘event’ a little shorter and less satisfying than it might have been. Perhaps a third, contrasting piece should have been added – for example a two-hander that gave the performers a chance to bounce off each other.

The standard of what is presented is gratifyingly high, and since it is a free show there can be no danger of feeling short-changed.

Running time 35 minutes
Holyrood Suite, Thistle King James Hotel (Venue 438), 107 Leith Street, EH1 3SW
Mon 11 – Mon 25 Aug 2014
Daily at 1.45 pm
Not in Fringe programme – free, unticketed
Further details on Freestival website: www.freestival.co.uk/

ENDS

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