Monday, August 19, 2013

REVIEW: Who Are You Supposed To Be?

Who Are You Supposed To Be?
Starring Jen Lusk and Cameron K McEwan

Written by Keith Gow

Directed by Emrys Mathews

Runs until Aug 26 at C-Aquila, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, everyday at 3.40pm. Buy tickets HERE


The challenge for any live show is in being able to grab the audience’s attention, lead them into the world within which the performance is set, and keep them there for the duration. Taking my seat in the small, darkened Aquila Venue 21 on a sunny Friday afternoon, to the strains of Roberta Tovey’s chirpy Who’s Who over the sound system (“…he’s quite at home on a big spaceship, or sitting on top of a horse…”), I suspected I was in for entertainment of the quirky kind. I wasn’t disappointed; rewarded with an hour’s amusement packed with enough geeky delights to please a fanboy (or fangirl)’s soul - but with a charming story at its heart.

Cameron K McEwan & Jennifer Lusk
The minimalist stage setting placed a heavy burden on the shoulders of Jennifer Lusk and Cameron K McEwan to draw the audience into their world, set in a sci-fi and fantasy convention (Nerd-vana) and aside from a slightly subdued start by Lusk, they shouldered it well. Their success in doing so was built on the foundations of a quality script, but with the sparky performances of McEwan and Lusk driving forward the narrative momentum. Their quick-fire exchanges maintained a naturalistic feel throughout the piece, as the duo meet and re-encounter each other throughout the course of the convention, their relationship building as they wait out the longueurs between discussion panels, autograph queues and best-dressed conventioneer sessions.

The play provides rich pickings for genre fans in the audience, with sci-fi and fantasy allusions scattered throughout the dialogue like little Easter eggs, and there’s a particular thrill in spotting some of the more obscure references. In particular, there’s a delightful sequence riffing cleverly on Fifth Doctor story titles, as Ash (Lusk) and Gene (McEwan) get nearer to the front of an autograph queue in the hope of obtaining a signature from the Fifth Doctor himself Peter (“the Guvnor”) Davison. The humour of this sequence is however affectingly contrasted by Ash’s vulnerability, as she reveals the extent to which she is constrained by her panic attacks, unable to continue to the front of the queue to meet her hero.

Both Gene and Ash are gradually revealed in the course of the play, by narrative and through the performances of McEwan and Lusk, to be more nuanced and believable than their initial appearances as classic superfans might suggest. Gene’s history involving his failed relationship with his ex-girlfriend (amusingly signalled by the running gag of cleverly used incidental music) gradually unfolds to expose his emotional frailties, hinting at the deeper damage dealt to his confidence.

With each carrying their own emotional baggage, the relationship between Gene and Ash borders on abrasive at times, giving a real crackle and fizz to their banter, energetically performed by Lusk and McEwan. The duo challenge their respective views and prejudices, on gender-stereotypes and the notion of the convention setting as a “safe space”. With Ash’s determination to be seen as The Doctor rather than a companion, the vexing question of whether and when there will ever be a female Doctor Who is given a good airing.

The play is divided into four “episodes” by cliffhangers in true-Who style, a narrative trick that works effectively in allowing for the passage of time over the long weekend of the convention setting, and in practical terms allows for quick re-setting of the stage. This episodic approach lends itself particularly well to a believable progression in Ash and Gene’s developing interest in each other. It’s to the credit of all involved that the temptation to neatly wrap the story up with a pat and straightforward happy ending was avoided, instead opting for a more believable denouement…but with a particularly entertaining costume change, which this reviewer will resist the temptation to spoil!

The flyer for Who Are You Supposed To Be? advertises the play as being a love letter to what is it to be a fan, celebrating the notion of pretending to be somebody else just for the hell of it. This sweetly told and engagingly performed play more than matches up to what’s promised. A show that’s well worth seeking out. 

BLOGTOR RATING 8/10


Who Are You Supposed To Be? runs until Aug 26 at C-Aquila, Edinburgh, everyday at 3.40pm. 

1 comment:

liminalD said...

That's a really cool review... sounds like an awesome show, Cam, and I wish I was able to get to Edinburgh to see it, but you know, other side of the world and all that. If you ever upload a recording to the Webz, post a link! I'd love to watch/listen to it!

And you're braver than me, I could never perform in front of an audience, so well done you :)