TheSpace on the Mile (Venue 39), Edinburgh
4-24 August 2018
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Nitro by Glass Knuckles and New Celts at theSpace on the Mile may never live up to the explosive promise of its title but has an energy and vigour that covers its faults effectively. (Photo © Glass Knuckles.)
Lewis McCutcheon’s script starts unpromisingly, with ‘a mismatched group of rebellious young arts students’ – which, not surprisingly, means an ill-assorted collection of stereotypes – who come up with a plan for a project that threatens to go out with a bang in every conceivable way.
However, from sketchy beginnings a largely impressive black farce develops, which cleaves to the inexorable logic necessary in such situations. Ian Dunn’s direction ensures that events unfold at the correct pace, and Esther Wilkes’s notably strong tech operation means that the atmosphere develops in tandem with the plot.
The cast struggle at times with characters who do start out as definite types, and whose subsequent development is down to the demands of the plot rather than anything inherent in their personalities. However, all of them manage to make an impact.
Catriona Bone (Blake-obsessed emo Lily) and Hannah Barretto (feminist Emile) both put so much drive into their characters that we rarely stop to wonder how they became friends, or ended up with their respective boyfriends, Nazi skinhead throwback Rex (played by John Gerard Crossan) and ultra-repressed Henry (Andrew Bilbie).
These latter two are at least afforded a modicum of light and shade by the script, with Bilbie’s comic timing in evidence, and Crossan’s oddly nuanced performance being the highlight of the production.
Andrew Weir’s troubled Neil has a compelling oddness to him, but the final character – the supposedly ultra-charismatic and mysterious black-clad Nick, who has a habit of appearing from nowhere – does not really work.
Andrew Weir, Hannah Barretto, Andrew Bilbie, Alan Scott, John Gerard Crossan, Catriona Bone. Pic: Glass Knuckles
Having had the idea for the character, McCutcheon then seems to have little idea what to do with him or even who he really is. Alan Scott manages to make up for this by brooding effectively and giving the character an air of mystery, and it is not his fault that this mystery is largely unfulfilled.
What the cast share is a belief in what is going on, and a desire to support the other members of the ensemble, which goes a long way in this case. This means that even at moments when the desire to include a funny line threatens to derail the plot, there is a forward momentum that is highly effective.
Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
TheSpace on the Mile (Venue 39), 80 High St, EH1 1TH
Saturday 4 – Friday 24 August 2018 (even dates only)
Even dates only at 2.25 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/nitro
Company Facebook: @glassknuckles4.