Seasoned Fringe-goers will be made to feel as lost as novices if they visit the Space on North Bridge this year. You arrive at the entrance to where this venerable venue has stood since 1995 to find it all boarded up. It takes a little hunting to reveal that the venue still exists and that it is today on the first floor of the Carlton Hotel (whose premises had in fact hosted it originally in a kind of unused annex). I would love to learn about the managerial power struggles behind this relocation. There must have been screaming matches at the highest level. The Space, its flyers, and its general human untidiness are now jostling with the Carlton’s previously swanky wine bar.
“Edgartown” is brought to the Fringe by Acting Coach Scotland (slogan: “From beginners to Oscar winners”), an uber-motivational private coaching studio (slogan #2: “The only thing we’re missing is YOU”) whose testimonials from bit-part television actors guarantee results for the fees. On the upside, “Edgartown” at least appears to be devised by its cast and so it retains some of the spontaneity of a regular undergraduate production. There is admittedly an all-singing, all-dancing over-exuberance to the show that had reminded me strongly of the American High School Theatre Festival. It looks as if several “fucks” have been strategically planted in the script as a way of belatedly correcting this unfortunate impression.
Horror enthusiasts will know that Edgartown is the Massachusetts beach resort where Steven Spielberg had filmed Jaws. “Edgartown” is ultimately whimsical in its aesthetic but it is stolidly Scottish beneath the whimsy. There is a loose layer of Americana, with the story evincing the same close-knit community cheer as Twin Peaks. There is a layer of steampunk, with the residents of Edgartown wearing vintage goggles, painted-on sideburns, and cog motifs across their clothing. There is a layer of… er… Gilbert and Sullivan versifying, which is probably the most innovative and certainly the most enjoyable feature of this production. Beneath all of these flamboyant disguises you can still faintly make out a grim, dank Scottish township, where somebody is always mixed up in a Mure-derr and the minister knows his way around the Bible with a readiness that you wouldn’t find in an American pastor. Is small-town Scotland the authentic core of “Edgartown” or has it eaten into an otherwise escapist play like corruption through an apple?
There are skilful performances aplenty but no oomph to the shock ending. One imagines that if the cast had committed either to the innocence of the high school musical or to the power of some darker reality, then their show might have a firmer sense of what it was about.