Anthony Neilson is one of the most daring practitioners working in British theatre. Most of his plays evoke controversy for their almost gratuitous use of violence and sex, and his choice of vocabulary can easily offend those who prefer ‘tame’ language.
All of which makes his play Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness almost an anomaly. Yes, the sex, violence and profanity are present, but they are presented in such a playful manner that it is rather difficult to get too worked up over, especially as when everything is done as if in a living cartoon.
The play itself is almost not a ‘play’ per se but is instead structured as a staging of a Victorian-era freak show. Edward Gant and his three performers present the audience with tales of wonder, mystery and love, both yearned for and lost. Through the performances, aspects of the four ‘actors’ become evident, thus making the production a clever play-within-a-play.
The best thing about the script is its intelligence. It pretends to be one thing but in fact is something else, and it manages to not only have some rather outrageous moments that make one wince and laugh, usually at the same time, but manages to be consistently surprising, even up until the final moment. It also has a touch of poignancy and an almost child-like innocence throughout.
Director Steve Marmion manages to find a happy balance between zany theatrics and an undercurrent of sympathy, and he relishes in the staging of the outlandish tales with creative images that sometimes borders the fine line of taste. All four cast members are great, managing to play their central characters and the needed ensemble for Gant’s production with ease. And kudos should also go to the design team for coming up with a concept that is both fun and impressive in its execution.
Edward Gant may not be up to everyone’s taste, but it is a well-produced celebration of the weird, the fantastical and the outrageous. It’s a fun evening out that combines wit with gross-out spectacle, and those with the stomach will certainly enjoy themselves.
Originally published on OnstageScotland.
On until March 21 at the Citizens, then touring the UK.
Filed under: Touring theatre productions |