Aug 11 2018 | By More

★★★★☆   Wedded bliss

Summerhall (Venue 26): Wed 1 – Sun 26 Aug 2018
Review by Martin Gray

Sweet and true, Handfast, by Edinburgh-based company Nutshell at Summerhall, is the wedding day you deserve.

Mona and Geoff are getting married. But Geoff has the jitters. Mona is worried about her meds. Pals Marina and Neil are arguing. Celebrant Sarah fears dentist hubby Mark is having an affair. The owls with the rings are missing. And the boiler’s busted.

The cast of Handfast. Nutshell Theatre EdFringe 2018 Summerhall Pic: Alistair Kerr

The cast of Handfast. Pic: Alistair Kerr

With all this promised, it sounds like Nutshell’s Handfast is a farce. In fact, it’s funny, but so touching as to be a long way from ‘whoops, there go my trousers’.

Besides, Jules Horne’s comedy is set in Glasgow, so it’s kilts akimbo as the cast – Joanna Holden, Stephen Doherty, Pauline Goldsmith, Sandy Nelson, Mary Gapinski and Valentine Hanson – merrily rub shoulders as they try to make it to the big day.

The play isn’t interactive, though the audience are made to feel part of proceedings on arrival at the Summerhall’s lovely, airy Library Gallery by being given a choice of fascinator or flower.

Then it’s sit back and enjoy some hugely skilled actors – or in the case of Nelson, actor/musician – have enormous fun with sharp material, every line and gesture an authentic nugget of life.

life-affirming hug

There is a spot of puzzlement, though. One character, neighbour Len, is heard, but represented visually by a cap and a jacket held aloft by cast members. Nor is it ever clear if crossing guard Mona’s lollipop stick is just a lollipop stick or a STOP metaphor… why take it to her wedding? And then there’s a pretendy dog who vanishes from proceedings – well, as much as an invisible mutt represented by a tartan coat can disappear.

The questions barely detract from a piece that’s not just theatre; it’s a massive, life-affirming hug of a play. By the time Nelson delivers a couple of pop classics – one as you’ve never heard it before – you’ll be wanting to kiss the cast. And they’d probably kiss you right back.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Summerhall, The Library Gallery (Venue 26), 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL
Wednesday 1 – Sunday 26 August 2018
Daily (not Thurs 16 – Sat 18): 7.40pm.
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/handfast

Website: https://nutshelltheatre.co.uk
Facebook: @NutshellTheatre
Twitter: @NutshellTheatre


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