Past Life

August 23, 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆     Strong comedy

Greenside @ Riddles Court (Venue 16): Mon 22 – Sat 27 Aug 2022
Review by Tom Ralphs

Set in what initially appears to be the backstage area of a theatre, Past Life from Simply Surreal, at Greenside Riddles Court for the last week of the Fringe only, provides a glimpse into the life of a reality TV show host and, in a humorous way, reveals it to be a fairly miserable existence.

The TV star is Ian Somers, played by George Bowers. Dougal Thomson’s script immediately establishes the prima donna nature of his leading character, as he spits out his drink and demands the Valencia orange juice he requested rather than the Sevilla brand he’s been given. His character is further revealed with a short dance routine that sees him rocking out to The Pixies, or something that sounds very much like them.

George Bowers and Bronagh Docherty in Past Life (rehearsal). Pic: Liam Forrest

After this the play swerves into Dickensian territory with the arrival of Past, an earlier version of Somers, played by Bronagh Docherty. Her mission is to get Somers to be honest with himself and discover the real reason for his unhappiness. Until he can do this, she can’t leave and he can’t move on.

Bowers self-aggrandising take on Somers contrasts well with Docherty’s enthusiastic unsullied performance as his past. The self-denial that seems to be in built into Somers aligns with media demands that he also maintains an image and story about himself that isn’t true. Bowers captures this while at the same time never losing sight of the fact that this is a comedy and not a hard-hitting expose of fame.

Much of the early comedy in Thomson script derives from Past’s claims that it should be obvious who she is because she looks exactly the same as Somers, in spite of being female and bearing no resemblance to him whatsoever. Docherty’s lack of irony in his continued failure to realise this adds to the humour in the lines.

absurd moments

The rest of the script also has lots of absurd moments and visual gags that are all the more impressive given the very limited space that the actors and director Lisa McDonald have to work with.

Where the play fails to deliver is when we find out the reason why Somers, who is actually waiting for the start of a radio interview, is unhappy. As Past puts it, ‘we have just cracked the dullest case of the year’ and there is a real sense of anti-climax after this.

More could have been done with the revelation, but it never becomes the ‘exploration of the facade of celebrity culture’ or ‘the effects that the exposure and pressure of celebrity has on the mental health of the person behind the name’ that it claims to be.

It is essentially a ‘be yourself and be true to yourself’ message with little or no metaphor behind it. It’s a very entertaining hour, but no more than that.

Running time: One hour (no interval)
Greenside @ Riddles Court (Clover Room) Riddles Court, 322 Lawnmarket, EH1 2PG (Venue 16)
Monday 22 to Saturday 27 August 2022
Afternoons: 16.00.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Company Instagram:@simplyysurreall
Facebook: @SimplySurreall

George Bowers and Bronagh Docherty in Past Life (rehearsal). Pic: Liam Forrest

ENDS

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