Aug 5 2014 | By More

★★★☆☆  Buff enough

theSpace on North Bridge (Venue 36) Fri 1 – Sat 9 August 2014
theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall (Venue 53) Mon 11 – Sat 16 August 2014

There’s huge fun to be had in Thrive Theatre’s Buffer at The Space on North Bridge – and some deeply felt emotion too.

Ross Donnachie and Lauren Hurwood. Photo: James Robertson

Ross Donnachie and Lauren Hurwood. Photo: James Robertson

Alan Gordon’s play is billed as being concerned with what happens when the generation who have grown up staring at screens 24/7 are forced to have human contact. This element is definitely present – Craig is constructing online personas to mask his real self, Spencer feels compelled to tweet and Instagram his life rather than participating in it, and Sophie is terrified both of living her life on social media and of being left out.

This isn’t really what the play is about, however – it deals with much older and deeper issues about human interaction. It would be a shame to reveal exactly what, as this would take a great deal of the interest and fun from the play.

Designer Claudia Lavelle Johns’ excellent set, featuring some spidery skeletons of dead umbrellas backed up by an upstage web, is part of an acting space that is very well used by director Becky Hope-Palmer. There is a great amount of intensity and spirit on display, most notably in the depictions of characters from Craig’s favourite dodgy ‘adult’ websites.

crazily hyperreal

It is all so infectiously energetic and its heart is so clearly in the right place that it almost seems churlish to point out the weak spots. However, an uneasy feeling persists throughout that there are two separate plays here – one about the loss of human contact in a digital world, and another one about something else entirely. The tone veers between the realistic and the crazily hyperreal, almost cartoonish. This is not a problem in itself, but the cartoonish elements are so much more fun that some of the rest seems a little monochrome.

Furthermore, the play’s apparent concerns – that some people spend a lot of time online, that no-one wants to be lonely, that small towns have lost their individuality, that it can difficult if you don’t conform to other people’s ideas – are neither startlingly original nor spectacularly well handled. There is a long, meandering speech near the end about the perils of losing our language that seems tacked on and not hugely helpful.

There is also a problem with the play’s central figure Craig. Someone who uses social media to construct different images of himself could be an intriguing character, but he seems underwritten, and so has the least impact of the three characters despite the best efforts of Ross Donnachie. Lauren Hurwood (Sophie) and Nicholas Nunn (Spencer) get much more room to play around and make up an extremely impressive cast.

There is massive promise in all areas of this production that is not entirely fulfilled here but bodes well for the future.

Running time 50 minutes

The Space on North Bridge, North Bridge, EH1 1SD (Venue 36)
Fri 1 – Sat 9 August 2014
Daily at 1.10 pm
Tickets at edfringe.com/whats-on/buffer-1

The Space at Surgeon’s Hall, Nicholson St, EH8 9DW (Venue 53)
Mon 11 – Sat 16 August 2014
Daily at 10.45 am
Tickets at edfringe.com/whats-on/buffer


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