[The following contains mild spoilers.]
At the Space on North Bridge, Calum Drysdale’s “COMPOST” is unconditionally a farce. The performers are a fun and likeable bunch. For a while their story gets tipsy on its own silliness and then it is properly merry. There are no complications, no downers, and no headache.
“COMPOST” joins “Swallows” and “Atlantis” as student plays at this year’s Fringe that playfully manhandle the environmentalist movement and maybe knock its piousness down a few pegs. Two small-town scammers concoct an initiative wherein they sell wheelie bins that purport to transform everyday household plastics into compost. The bins are meant to be coated in very sophisticated enzymes. In reality, the scammers are driving around in the early hours of the morning, emptying the bins, refilling them with garden-centre compost, and trundling off to the local tip to recycle the leftover plastic.
The writer has obviously thought deeply about this scheme and, if you desire to do so too, there is even an estimation provided of its likely profits. The play is only ever serious when engineering a working model of a waste-collection scam. It’s such a funny idea because compost is largely useless anyway and probably the most useless possible thing that you could ever turn plastic into.
When one gardener rumbles the scheme, she appears to be murdered. Next an investigative journalist who is hotfoot on the scammers appears to receive tidings from the gardener’s ghost. You can see that this is symbolically a kind of pun. The gardener’s body is tumbled into a wheelie bin and her ghost is the fresh compost that has resulted from her disintegration. But is this just another scam?
The story nicely contracts so that all of the characters are revealed to be somehow interconnected or related to each other. As this happens, the play grows more familiar with us, in increasingly menacing the fourth wall. By the end “COMPOST” is mostly commenting ironically on its own tomfoolery. Perhaps it has broken down normal theatre itself into a rich compost of mulchy farce.