sat 20/07/2024

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Adults / Bacon | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Adults / Bacon

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Adults / Bacon

Illicit gay encounters form the themes of two provocative shows - with contrasting results

Anders Hayward as a seductive Jay and Conleth Hill as an increasingly incredulous Iain in Kieran Hurley's patchy AdultsMihaela Bodlovic

Adults, Traverse Theatre 

Outside the festival madness of August, Edinburgh is a bit of a village. So it’s no surprise if you keep bumping into people you know. For entrepreneurial Zara, however, it nonetheless comes as a shock that the latest client at her fair-pay sex-work collective is her former teacher Iain, there to try things out with a guy for the first time. The awkwardness levels crank up even further, though, with the arrival of Jay, Iain’s partner for his allotted 45 minutes, as well as Jay’s crying baby, and a mobile phone that can record the whole affair.

There are endless, ceaselessly shifting relationships of power, guilt and shame in Kieran Hurley’s often wildly funny three-hander, and though it might raise a few eyebrows to see a writer formerly focused on political creations offering up a bedroom farce, Hurley’s small-p political insights remain – even if you might have to look a bit harder to find them.

And Adults begins brilliantly, with a long, exquisitely painful back-and-forth between Zara and Iain that moves with expert pacing through professionalism, recognition, shock, regret and outrage. After that strong opening, however, things begin to slip, as Hurley’s plot relies on a few unconvincing and apparently arbitrary actions to move forward, so that by Adults’ second half, it’s no longer entirely clear what he’s trying to say, or ask.

Nonetheless, this is a vivid, sometimes larger-than-life production from director Roxana Silbert, and designer Anna Orton has clearly had a lot of fun in transforming an ordinary bedroom into a sex-toy-bedecked, satin-sheeted play den. Dani Heron captures Zara’s disarming mix of brusque professionalism and youthful naivety brilliantly, and Conleth Hill is a joy as an increasingly incredulous but needy Iain. Anders Hayward as Jay provides a convincing seduction routine, as well as touching insights into the fragile person behind the sexual image.

Adults offers an entertaining, sometimes gently shocking hour of theatre, but while it starts off as a farce with the bite and seriousness of political theatre, it seems to lose its previously clear sense direction somewhere in the middle.

BaconBacon, Summerhall 

You may feel you’ve experienced every gay-schoolboy-illicit-romance drama it’s possible to imagine over the years. Sophie Swithinbank’s nimble, slippery Bacon, however, offers an intriguingly novel perspective on an overly familiar trope. And it’s one that’s neatly embodied by the monumental, concrete see-saw of Natalie Johnson’s set.

New boy Mark – all neatly fastened tie and precise speech in Corey Montague-Sholay’s (pictured above right) touchingly human performance – quickly encounters swaggering but damaged Darren (a mercurial William Robinson, pictured above left) at the school he’s just joined, first as threat, then quickly as an object of fascination. But while Darren seems to return Mark’s attentions, he also struggles with the vulnerabilities they imply – leading to violence, separation, and a horribly fraught reacquaintance four years later.

Swithinbank’s real target here is the shifting balance of power in personal relationships, captured to provocative effect as the two boys work out their methods of mutual support, attraction and openness (or not) with those around them. It’s a refreshing slant, and one that’s tied intimately to Swithinbank’s deft characterisation of the two boys, their contrasting classes and backgrounds, their supposed life trajectories – which the writer takes pleasure in subverting before our eyes.

Bacon supplies an intense, unpredictable, draining 75 minutes, and director Matthew Iliffe mines every twist, awkwardness and surprise for emotional impact. The conclusion might leave you with a somewhat bitter taste in your mouth – but that’s surely the point.

The awkwardness levels crank up even further with the arrival of Jay, Iain’s partner for his allotted 45 minutes, as well as Jay’s crying baby

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