The Fastest Clock in the Universe

May 23 2024 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆       Febrile

Assembly Roxy: Tue 21 – Sat 25 May 2024
Review by Thom Dibdin

EGTG drill down deep into the vicious heart of Philip Ridley’s The Fastest Clock in the Universe, in a production at the Assembly Roxy which never goes quite where you expect it to.

Clever, challenging and properly disreputable, Ridley’s script is a joy to behold under Abbye Eva’s direction. She ensures that its laughs are never cheaply bought, but drop unexpectedly, dissipating moments of great tension – just as the play seems as if it were to teeter over at the enormity of what is happening on stage.

Caden Scott. Pic: Kate Stephenson.

Set in a dilapidated room above a derelict fur factory in the East End of London, Fastest Clock finds Cougar Glass and his elder companion Captain Tock, making the last preparations for Cougar’s twelfth 19th birthday, to which there is but one invitee: naive schoolboy Foxtrot Darling.

The whole piece revolves around Caden Scott’s superbly passive aggressive performance as Cougar. Indolent, scheming and as petulantly trembling-lipped as a seven year old child, Scott re-imagines the role as a force of nature in this hyper-real environment.

nefarious activities

Scott is aided and abetted no end by Dario Dalla Costa as Captain Tock, Cougar’s much older lover and the facilitator of his nefarious activities. Dalla Costa spends a large proportion of the early scenes in a monologue to the on-stage but impassive Cougar. It is enormously tricky stuff to pull off, but he does so superbly, ensuring the believability of their relationship and setting up all that is to follow.

Esther Gilvray and Caden Scott. Pic: Kate Stephenson.

Cougar’s undertow of ultra-violence is emphasised by the couple’s downstairs neighbour and widow of the furrier, Cheetah Bee. Esther Gilvray adds an extra touch of the macabre to the role and, when the moment comes, her big monologue is perhaps the most chilling of them all.


As this year’s invitee to Cougar’s annual 19th birthday celebration, Al Innes is a remarkably on-point 15-year-old Foxtrot Darling. Fully the spotty youth in awe of the older Cougar and completely oblivious as to his intentions, Innes’s relation of how he lost his elder brother is an early transfixing moment in the play.

It’s dark enough already, before the unexpected arrival of Amy Dallas as Sherbet Gravel, Foxtrot’s big brother’s girlfriend. Her nervous energy and 100mph dialogue, which could easily become lost in its own speed, is a triumph of clarity, while her ability to depth-charge a scene is beautiful to behold.

Dario Dalla Costa and Caden Scott. Pic: Kate Stephenson.

The success of this whole beautiful beast of a show is the way the company works together under Eva’s direction, aided by AD Ross Hope and stage manager Emma Carter. There is a muscularity to the dialogue, but the monologues are able to float free, engaging your imagination. The final line is sadly rushed, but otherwise this is a consistently appropriately-paced production.

Given minimal – but sufficient – design resources, Eva has brought out a quintet of vibrant and constantly fascinating performances from her cast, which allow the production to dig down deep into Ridley’s questioning of the nature of love and dependency, and of where the guilt lies at the edges of enablement.


That set design, by Richard Spiers with properties by Samantha Milanesi, does just enough to sketch in the setting, hinting suggestively at the avian theme and leaving the actors to paint in the rest. J Gordon Hughes’ lighting works almost as hard as any of the actors to ensure it becomes a reality, helping to direct the eye in the most complex of scenes and particularly key when the birthday cake comes out. Dug Campbell’s sound adds both an undertow of unease and glimpse of the external world.

This is a fascinating production, tense and febrile, which shows that in their 70th, platinum, year The Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group are not fading away but growing old most disgracefully.

Running time: Two hours and 15 minutes (including one interval)
Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU
Tue 21 – Sat 25 May 2024
Evenings: 7.30pm (Upstairs).
Tickets and details: Book here.

Caden Scott, Amy Dallas), Dario Dalla Costa and Al Innes. Pic: Kate Stephenson


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