Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – until 28 August 2022
Sonya Kelly’s play is set in a ticket queue inhabited by two cartoonish characters – a reticent professor and a passive aggressive middle aged Umbrella Woman who works in “an open plan office”.
In the background, the formidable ‘ticket person’ controls who gets the returns they are desperate for. The show has a highly stylised tone, inhabiting a world of comic types that soon also includes an unlikely US marine and a silent Somalian woman.
The purpose of the play emerges gradually, as colonial power relations are reflected in the self-regard and desperate manoeuvrings of the queuers. Most of the stage time is occupied by a strangely heightened atmosphere created by the stereotyped characters.
If this sounds like a criticism it isn’t, on the whole. Some genuine comedy emerges, much of it focused on Anna Healy’s formidable ticket person who, as we discover is not only stern but heavily armed. Fiona Bell’s Umbrella Woman teeters on the edge of hysteria with her manic politeness, while Bosco Hogan’s Professor starts patient but is clearly heading for a meltdown in slow motion.
Sara Joyce’s production for Druid Theatre is carefully choreographed and absorbing. Kelly has re-imagined Ionesco for the post-colonial era, and leaves us feeling we’ve seen something we won’t forget in a hurry, even if its exact meaning is elusive.