Summerhall (location 26), until August 28 (not 15, 22)
A woman named Vee cycles through London, exasperated and all too familiar with the streets of the big city. Suddenly, a white van pulls out — she and the driver only see each other when it’s too late, and now he bumps into her, sending her flying in slow motion toward the curb. The next few hours are a blur of ragged, panicked voices around her, and when she fully comes to herself and is allowed to leave the hospital, there’s a bewildering sense of bliss.
Turns out she’s lucky to be alive, and now she must not only let her body recover, but her fractured memory of this unimaginable, life-sapping trauma, and her very sense of who she is. She is. Actress and writer Lila Clements built this monologue from the seed of a bicycle incident she was involved in 12 years ago, and while it’s unclear if her own injuries were as upsetting as those suffered by Vee, his writing is certainly cooked with a sense of realism and intimacy with the subject and its consequences.
Vee’s journey of discovery is finely balanced between revelation and fun, from reading an after-the-fact police report that details how close she came to death, to seeing herself – tastefully cut from the neck up – on 24 Hours in A&E and being endlessly fascinated by her own emergency treatment. There were, she vaguely recalls through the amnesiac haze of near-death, inscriptions saying that upon entering A&E, consent to recording had been given. Can his agent send them an invoice?
It’s a true story of hard-earned triumph after near-tragedy, and Clements’ performance is strong and involving in the hands of director Anna Ryder and motion director Michael Spenceley. Designer Chantal Short placed a versatile accessory bike on stage and a gauze of bike wheels on the backdrop of the video, and in Vee’s early cycling memories with her mother and late father, a rich history of on two wheels as a metaphor for personal growth and discovery builds. David Pollock
Pleasance Courtyard (location 33), until August 29 (not 10, 15, 22)
An older man paces his garden shed, shredding old newspapers and dipping into his stash of pot noodles (chicken and mushroom flavor) to feast on. He talks to himself and occasionally to a visiting friend named Alex, though we only hear the actual character’s side of the conversation. A stranger kindly accosted him in the chip aisle of the supermarket and noted in his shopping cart that he was buying one – perhaps he would like to come and visit a “men’s shed” for “people like you”?
The idea of a “man cave”, a place where men can retreat to pursue their innocent pastimes, is an aspiration for many husbands or partners, but here it has become a prison. In particular, Ron Emslie’s take on Euan Martin’s screenplay offers a tender study of grief and loneliness, as we learn of the man’s bereavement, the recent dementia and death of his companion Alex, and the life of her only daughter in Australia.
Director Dave Smith brought out the tenderness and sympathy of the story, creating heartbreaking moments, like when the Man of the Year’s first home visit is the meter reader in March. He recounts past conversations with others, but their voices are absent rather than adopted; this leans into the point of the piece, though it also flattens its tone somewhat. David Pollock
ZOO Southside (Location 82), until August 20
Fans of Sylvester Stallone’s lovable paw will find little for them in this thought-provoking retelling of history in right-wing fable form. Somewhere between an art installation and an agitprop theatre, Rocky here becomes the leader of a populist political movement that rises up against “well-intentioned liberal fate”.
Director and playwright Tue Biering’s play is necessarily thought-provoking and at times infuriating. It’s a portrait of liberal fears, peppered with racist, homophobic and misogynistic jokes, presumably as an attempt to understand the views of all the “Rockys” out there – or to satirize the liberal perception of them. . Performed with an uncommon degree of bravery by Morten Burian, it confronts us with often appalling images (curiously, there are no content warnings outside the room – there should be).
When Pasolini did that in Salo it was to illustrate what the fascists looked like, but it basically ends with a political message from a “real life Rocky” because Buering says “we’d like to challenge our audience and give the mic to the members of the right wing that they usually don’t meet in a theater but might like to hate”. It’s a jagged, disturbing track that should appeal to fans of that fellow Danish provocateur, Lars Von Trier – everyone should approach with extreme caution. Rory Ford
Greenside @ Infirmary Street (location 236), until August 20
In June 1629, the Batavia, pride of the Dutch East India Company fleet, was wrecked off the west coast of Australia. Bankrupt apothecary-turned-merchant Jeronimus Cornelisz was the senior officer who exploited the disaster with mutinous results.
It’s all described in the solemn and eloquent voiceover that opens The Graveyard, but this double isn’t a sober pageant, rather it’s a mix of gallows humor, boredom, hysteria and Waiting for Godot-style absurdity, as two of the unfortunate sailors argue. with their subsequent imprisonment and confronting their mortality through a succession of comedic vignettes that are played with senseless detachment by Charlie Flynn and exasperation and despair by Harry Higgins.
The first evokes Shakespearean clown scenes with his comical acceptance of his fate, while the second sinks into desert hallucinations, conversing with his echo. Together, they anticipate their execution, reflect on their escape and are gradually brutalized and hardened to the horror of their situation. The graveyard drags a little at times before going to dark places around complicity and control, with malevolent puppeteer Cornelisz an arm’s length spectral menace reveling in the anarchy of his victims’ confinement. Fiona Shepherd