Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh: Tue 4 – Sat 8 Oct 2016
Reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Fine comic performances and staging distinguish Breaking The Ice, the first in the latest season of A Play, A Pie and A Pint at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre.
There is a definite political and environmental edge to Kieran Lynn’s comedy, as befits a production which is also the opening play in the Dario Fo season – Dancing with Colours, Whipping with Words. Recently appointed government scientific advisor Frank Montgomery is in Alaska to give a speech to a conference on proposed exploitation of the Arctic. However, a yogurt-related mishap leaves him out of the hotel in his bathrobe – and at the mercy of an oddly assorted collection of characters.
The farcical goings-on do not always convince, with the parade of different people and situations never coming together as a coherent whole. For a play that lasts less than an hour to be so meandering is something of a surprise, but the variations in tone and atmosphere – from pithy philosophising to the broadest of humour – make for awkward transitions.
This is not the fault of director Tony Cownie, who keeps a tight rein on proceedings and extracts the maximum possible from each scene. The cast are also excellent, with Jimmy Chisholm and Nicola Roy’s versatility and skill, fleshing out all of the various people Frank encounters. Steven McNicoll, meanwhile, holds the whole thing together excellently as Frank, with a beautifully judged comic performance that renders him utterly absurd yet strangely endearing.
In the end, the comedy overshadows any more serious intent. None of the characters are developed enough to have a life of their own. As a result, the political points, while timely and necessary, seem more of an afterthought than the driving force behind the narrative. However, there can be no doubting the sincerity, and the end result is never less than enjoyable.
Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 4 – Saturday 8 October 2016
Lunchtimes: 1pm, Evening performance Friday 7, 7pm.
Tickets and details: http://www.traverse.co.uk/
Breaking the Ice is part of the Dancing with Colours, Whipping with Words, Dario Fo festival. See preview: In Fo We Trust.