Anorak of Fire

August 13, 2014 | By More

★★★☆☆   Charmingly geeky

The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241)
Tues 12 – Sat 16 Aug 2014

There’s a wry humanity in Anorak of Fire, as well as some jokes that are starting to show their age.

GusPicCropIn Arkle Theatre Company’s revival of Stephen Dinsdale’s 1991 one-hander, Phil Barnes reprises his performance as Gus Gascoigne, ‘spotter’ extraordinaire, after an interval of several years.

Trainspotting, of course, has long been associated with something else in these parts thanks to Irvine Welsh. But here is one of the original ‘spotters’, wearing his anorak as a badge of honour and fuelled by nothing stronger than a flask of his mother’s tea.

The anorak was once the butt of so many jokes in popular culture. However, in the 21st century the role of the nerd and the obsessive has undergone something of a subtle change, with programmes such as The Big Bang Theory even making geekiness fashionable. As a result, some of the tropes on show here – an interest in comics, for example – do not carry the social stigma they once did.

outdated stereotypes

This is not the only thing that gives the monologue the whiff of a period piece. The humour is derived largely from a range of outdated stereotypes, and the other characters mentioned in the story are rarely finely enough drawn or well enough observed to truly come to life.

Gus, meanwhile, is an engaging enough presence, but is so lacking in self-knowledge that the audience are laughing at him more than with him, which means that the narrative feels stretched, with much of the time taken up by an implausible shaggy dog story (with the emphasis on ‘shag’).

What could be a long old hour, however, is given impetus by the production. Phil Barnes is obviously entirely at home with the character, and invests him with a believability and sympathy that might otherwise be lacking. Michael Mulligan’s crisp direction also helps to give the performance logic and cohesion.

The performance never drags, mainly because it is so well drilled, but not at the expense of the humanity displayed by such an impressive performer. The passing of years seems to add another layer, as Barnes now seems a little old for the part – but this only serves to add pathos. As a result, what could have been a lightweight, throwaway piece has more resonance and interest.

Running time: 1 hour
The Royal Scots Club (Venue 241) 29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3 6QE
Tues 12 – Sat 16 Aug 2014
Daily at 15.00
Tickets at edfringe.com/whats-on/anorak-of-fire
Company website www.arkletheatre.co.uk

ENDS

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