Pleasance Courtyard – Pleasance Above
I was convinced that my best mate from freshers’ week was going to be my best mate for life. His name was Paddy. He chain-smoked like nobody’s business, had a likeable swagger and studied history. I think. I haven’t seen Paddy in around seven years. The real, lasting connections were the ones I made later. People who actually liked what I liked, who I didn’t have to hang around in smoking areas with whilst I refused a drag and coughed away. These later friends were the people I lived with in second year and am still close with to this day. So I can empathise with flatmates Bobbie (Clara Wessely) and Emma (Chisha Chanda), who enter their second year full of hope and intent on having the perfect university experience.
We join the pair at the beginning of the academic year, trying out new clubs and societies: introductory pole-dancing (which has no poles) and an introduction to feminist society (which incongruously asks you refer to ex-members as bitches). The production is packed full of strong sketches like this, lampooning university life.
Ted Ackery is the highlight of a talented cast as he morphs from skit to skit, playing highly-strung yoga instructors, a vape shop proprietor and a disaster date – in all of which he is hilarious. Another fantastic scene, where Bobbie fails completely at flirting with her crush, Jules (Otis Kelly), – a kind of Colin Firth on steroids – as she serves him coffee, is a tight piece of work that Richard Curtis would be proud of. Coupled with some creative staging, the first half of the play has me hooked.
Unfortunately, the promise of these earlier moments is not capitalised on particularly effectively. A meandering script has me wondering what the narrative thrust of the play is as we flit between Emma and Bobbie’s failing relationships. And whilst the comedic bones of the characters are laid nicely, there isn’t quite enough flesh added over the second half to make me feel a great deal of sympathy for them as the piece develops. As a result, the energy of the piece falls away and at times I’m a little bored – a big contrast to the first half.
Fire Signs is full of comedic potential and starts well as a collection of spoof Sally Rooney university sketches. The production manages to capture that unique blend of experience and naivety of university days. Sadly, once the fun of freshers’ week is over, and reality sets in, the rest of term gives us less to be excited about.
Directed by: Bella Taylor
Written by: Lana Stone
Produced by: Isabella Fisher-Turner and Lana Stone for Edinburgh University Theatre Company
Fire Signs has completed its run at this year’s EdFringe.