Shows on a Shoestring
On Saturday afternoon, as the sun finally came out and bathing Edinburgh in glorious warmth, I descended into a basement theatre to observe a show on the topic of euthanasia.
It was never going to be cheery, but Robert Dawson Scott’s script is intelligent and involving. Set in a horrifyingly believable near future, 2019 to be exact, it draws a picture of a society where, as the population ages and youth unemployment increases, government-sponsored assisted suicide is being touted as a solution to spiraling pension payments and medical costs.
There is some fine writing and acting here, as Stephen Clyde’s misanthropic Alan and his quietly desperate daughter (Karen Bartke) grapple with the reality of the brutal choices before them. The play treads a taut wire between the normality of the impoverished family sitting room and the surreal debate about how much an elderly life is worth.
Meanwhile, the company employed to sell death to a clientele, selected by demographic, is convincingly personified in a target-driven female boss, and her likeable, but malleable, junior named Amrit. His hard-nosed version of his cultural legacy, presenting the old man’s suicide as a noble sacrifice to future generations, is a disquieting twist in the tale.
With such well-handled and explosive material, this should be a stonker of a Fringe show. But the production has a strangely subdued quality that belies the emotive nature of the material, preventing this powerful and timely play from achieving its full emotional and political impact.