This is the third day of heavy rain at the Fringe and I would give anything for it to stop. I can begin to understand the mind-set of those ancient Carthaginians who had sacrificed their own children in order to appease the weather. I might pop into some children’s theatre to hunt for volunteers. “Excuse me Madam, but are you honestly needing that brat of yours?”
The Space at Jury’s Inn is one of those rag-tag venues that stands on that comparatively deserted street which curves around from the Royal Mile to Waverley station. Offputtingly, the most appropriate space that they claim to have for a theatre is on the eighth floor. Fat Fox Production’s “Little Sparks” no doubt owes today’s unfairly modest audience to being out of the way, both from the normal hubs of the Fringe and within its own building. It is otherwise a merry and well-performed comedy. I can imagine it bringing much bigger and fuller houses down.
It is written by Paul Richards. Although I enjoy these light comedies, I tend to avoid reviewing them, because there is little to really say about them other than whether or not they work. “Little Sparks” certainly works and its hilarity burns through constantly, without ever fizzling out. The story observes three office workers – Baxter (Alan Hay), Lisa (Kate Madison) and Kirsty (Stephanie Swan) – whose lives and jobs are so uneventful that they get stupendously overexcited whenever their fire alarm goes off. They even have a stirring disco anthem that they perform to the alarm’s soundtrack. Having made pyromania appear entirely logical, next they are drawn towards making it inevitable.
A situational comedy that is set in an office does not have much of a head start when it comes to originality. The three characters also seem familiar from British sitcoms. Frustratingly, I feel as if I have encountered these personalities before and that my memories of from where are irretrievable or effaced (though the cheerfully wretched Lisa comes to remind me of Daisy from Spaced). Yet the script is always fresh and the melancholy of the performers makes them very likeable.
Hay is the funniest performer but there is a natural equality to the ensemble and he never upends the balance. He is comedically obese but beautifully agile – a whale with the sensibility of a dolphin. The piece’s humour is playful and at heart gentle – Richards is never tempted, for example, to work Grenfell Tower into his characters’ talk. These silly people are sad because their lives are boring and yet they somehow manage to have fun, and make fun, all the time that they are on stage.