Catching time with EGTG

May 21 2024 | By More

EGTG Director Abbye Eva and lead actor Caden Scott on The Fastest Clock in the Universe

This week, EGTG continue their platinum season with a production of Philip Ridley’s 1992 dark comedy thriller, The Fastest Clock in the Universe, at Assembly Roxy for five performance.

The play is set in an old room filled with avian antiques, above an old fur factory, where Cougar Glass is just about to celebrate his 19th birthday – for the 12th time. Self-absorbed, Cougar shares the room with the bird-obsessed Captain Tock. Everything is prepared for the party: there’s a very exclusive guest list, a delicious cake… and a very sharp knife.

EGTG’s The Fastest Clock in the Universe in rehearsal. Caden Scott as Cougar Glass and Dario Dalla Costa as Captain Tock. Pic: EGTG.

The multi-award-winning play caused something of a sensation when it premiered at the Hampstead Theatre in 1992. The second of Ridley’s East End Gothic trilogy, this multi-layered drama about ageing, love and delusion has a dark humour which didn’t always appeal to critics of the first production, which stared Jude Law in his first professional role, as Foxtrot Darling, a 15 year-old schoolchild

“We wanted to strike a balance with the tone of the play,” director Abbye Eva told Æ, when asked whether the play’s controversy when was first staged is the same for a more modern audience, and whether it really is comedy.

“It’s a dark comedy with tragic characters. Some characters make choices that we could never understand or in any way condone but have moments where they can be related to. Some of the lines have something that just clicks with us and it’s where the humour is born. Awful things happen but it’s definitely written as a comedy.

a gift for actors

“Ross Hope, who’s also on the production team gave me the play to read and I think it is magnificent. The writing is beautiful, the characters are a gift for actors and there are a lot of interesting power dynamics to explore. It’s in part about aging but mainly (in my eyes) about the power of rituals and the dangers of enablement.”

Having made her EGTG directorial debut with a somewhat brutal production of Mark Ravenhill’s pool (no water) at the Fringe in 2019 (★★★★☆ Cruel but hilarious said our critic) is this production aiming to be controversial?

“No,” says Eva. “We don’t hold back or tone things down but shock isn’t our core purpose here. The play goes there and we go with it. There’s nothing wrong with an audience being disturbed by something onstage, as Ridley says himself. It is part of the story, though it’s not the whole story.”

EGTG’s The Fastest Clock in the Universe in rehearsal. Dario Dalla Costa, Al Innes as Foxtrot Darling and Caden Scott. Pic: EGTG.

Caden Scott is playing the role of Cougar Glass. A name coined well before “cougar” had the connotations of modern-day internet porn. He is, however, a narcissist and fantasist who cannot accept that he is subject to the ageing process. And is hardly the object of any sympathy.

“All characters in this play have one foot in the realm of fantasy, so Cougar isn’t alone in that one,” says Scott. “In terms of sympathy it would be easy to say ‘he’s a monster, and no amount of nuanced performance will have anyone thinking anything but’. But I have a feeling that our audience’s experience will be a little more complicated than that.

“Cougar’s situation is so strange and unique it’s not as simple as painting him as a predator. Let me be clear: he is, but everyone in this room has made their own choices and mistakes that have brought them here, and unpicking this thorny web means that it’s never as cut and dry nor as simple as you think it will be.”


And how about the comedy of the play? Philip Ridley himself has said words to the effect that “any seduction viewed from the outside is comedy”.

“I think there’s humour in this seduction, horrifying though it is,” agrees Scott. “On one level it feels almost satirical, poking fun at the paper-thin justifications we all put over our desires to get what we want. And on another level it’s funny because the audience is complicit in a comically flawed attempt to do something very very wrong.

“Different people will find this funny in different ways of course: some may peek through their fingers and giggle as much as they wince, others may belly laugh at the places this story goes. It gets dark, of course it does, but I want people to know, coming into this, that they have permission to laugh.

“There’s nothing worse than finding something funny and stifling it because you’re afraid of irking a quiet audience – I know because I’m always the first to laugh, even when I maybe shouldn’t!”

EGTG’s The Fastest Clock in the Universe in rehearsal. Caden Scott, Dario Dalla Costa, Al Innes and Amy Dallas as Sherbet Gravel. Pic: EGTG

Away from EGTG, Scott is a director and performer who developed a taste for Shakespeare’s contemporaries – Webster, Middleton, Beaumont and Fletcher, while at Auckland University. He will be co-directing and performing in Edinburgh-based, New Zealand theatre company Half Trick‘s early modern double bill of The Faustus Project and John Marston’s Antonio’s Revenge at C Arts this Fringe.

So Scott is not averse to getting down and gory if needs be, then. However, images from early productions of the play, show Cougar as being quite buff – and having to appear without too much apparel. Has that been an issue?

“My journey as a theatre professional started when I was just out of high school. I would be sprawled along the aisles of the Auckland University library blitzing through every play I could get my hands on, searching for hidden gems to explore and hopefully one day, put on.

“Among the modern writers I kept coming back to was Philip Ridley. I loved that magic-realistic, hyper-specific, over-the-top, is it horrible or is it hilarious, pitch dark comedy, with heart and soul. Tonally, it’s my favourite place to operate.

physically magnetic

“One problem though: everything of his seemed mighty difficult to stage. So I was extremely pleased to come to Edinburgh and see that Abbye and the Grads were taking this one on, so I could tick ‘tackling a Philip Ridley play’ off my wishlist.

“I’m not the usual physical type for Cougar, but I knew that wouldn’t matter. I think our understanding of ways someone can be physically magnetic, dangerous, and captivating have evolved since 1992. And wearing Cougar’s skin does fascinating things to one’s confidence (and nerves). I’m 29 now, so hopefully my birthday next year is much less eventful than Cougar’s, though it feels like the perfect time in my life to be engaging with this material.

“Before this production, I’ve been spearheading a lot of my own work, so it’s a pleasant relief to come to rehearsal and not have to think about anything beyond the character – and put myself in the very capable hands of Abbye and the team.”

The Fastest Clock in the Universe
Assembly Roxy 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU
Tue 21 – Sat 25 May 2024
Evenings: 7.30pm (Upstairs).
Tickets and details: Book here.


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