Happenstance makes the Fringe go round. I had just left “The Economist” at C Nova, with the intention of returning to Tychy HQ, but I would not even reach the Meadows. A double helping of rain, with a side order of yet more rain, sent me fleeing back to C Nova. Every mega cloud has a silver lining, however, and once imprisoned in C Nova I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the DugOut Theatre’s new show “Cover.”
I’m still not convinced by C Nova. The box office and the bar share a single room, which also serves as a place for the audiences to assemble before the plays. It is rather like a sixth-form common room, with only a few seats and almost everybody left to stand about and look helplessly at each other. Perhaps we should all leave our bags in a great pile in the corner. I expect that I’ll get used to it.
Ed J Smith’s play “Cover” is initially happy to be a farce. The theatre is hot and pleasantly intimate; we find ourselves as unobserved bystanders rather than as an audience. After an evening at the cinema, the dashing student James (Hugh Coles) has brought his latest date Rebecca (Phoebe Sparrow) back to his father’s old and apparently abandoned Bermondsey apartment for some discreet time together. Alas, his brother Billy (Tom Black) has had the same idea, and he and his own girlfriend Mags (Nina Shenkman) inadvertently gate-crash the private party. They all turn out to be suprisingly delighted with each other’s company, but scarcely have they agreed to knock some drinks together than the intrigue and backbiting have begun.
Mags is the Caliban of this particular tempest – a mixture of crusty and prima donna, whose character is completed with a generous garnish of malapropisms – and once she is clowning about, the laughs come faster than Mags herself can dole out the gin and tonics. There is also an amusing subplot-in-parenthesis in which the cast rip themselves out of the play to perform silent-cinema dance routines, entirely randomly and seemingly in some obscure homage to the recent film The Artist. But the dancing is not disagreeable to watch.
Yet once the play has gorged itself on farce, it roams off in pursuit of more substantial fare. Aside from Tom Black, the cast converse in drawling Oxbridge accents and there is initially a mildly Wodehousian quality to this play. It is as if we are observing four – or rather three and a half – Bertie Woosters who are locked up in an old flat, perhaps with the faraway father as a Jeeves who is no longer around to keep them all out of mischief. Yet as the play both progresses and matures, a shadow falls over this hitherto innocent world of free flats and ready money. A happy ending would have been nice, but there is more to life than happy endings.