The Greatest Play in the History of the World, bold claim as it may be, was the first show I caught at the Traverse and raised the bar for their Fringe programme. Exploring the importance of love in the workings of the world narrated by the inimitable Julie Hesmondhalgh, Kershaw’s play is a touching affair.
What I particularly enjoyed about this world premiere was its simplicity. In some ways, one could argue nothing of great consequence happened, instead, a simple love story was told which affected no-one other than the two individuals falling in love. There was no significant drama it was a narration of two characters and their stories that brought them to that moment in time on Preston Road. The story might have taken place across space and time but its true charm lay in its focus on love and the many ways love is central to humanity.
Hesmondhalgh was an absolute triumph – completely mesmerising, holding the audience in the palm of her hand as she recounted this simple story in all its glory. The characters were so relatable and the plot was so normal that in some ways it was remarkable it was so effective. There were two very unextraordinary main characters, not overly likable but immediately they seemed like someone you had once known. Kershaw demonstrated an understanding of the little things that make a character come to life and created a man and a woman that were memorable in their plainness.
I’ve mentioned these two characters a great deal but it is worth clarifying here that it is a one-woman show and Hesmondhalgh creates the participants in her story through the evocative and imaginative use of pairs of shoes to portray each individual. This was again such a simple way to conjure other characters and yet it took a great deal of skill from Hesmondhalgh to encourage the audience to imagine these different personalities. It was impressive how she could create this world for the audience through careful description and carefully thought through gestures. Somehow we found ourselves laughing at images of the people filling these shoes and experiencing their pain along with them, as if they were acting it out before our eyes. Instead, there were just empty pairs of different shoes and it was exquisite that the production could encourage each audience member to imagine the same thing.
A thoroughly enjoyable production that captures the imagination and is sure to please the most hardened Fringe-goer.