Camden Fringe 2023
A play is like a dot to dot puzzle: sometimes the plot is obvious and you go from dot one through to dot 100 easily. At other times you might have to hunt a little harder to find the second number. But what you should always be able to do is find dot one and have a hope of spotting the next. TJGW Sigmund‘s Boil feels very much a play where they completely forgot to have a number one.
Boil, at least according to its show blurb, is “a story of turbulent infection torment and rotting jest where three figures are caught in a never-ending spectral dance, whilst the streets outside are cold with death.” This is all well and good, and quite frankly a show I’d love to see, except what we actually get is a concoction of moments that are disjointed, and simply do not connect to create a satisfying play.
It all begins with a voiceover monologue that is clearly trying to set a dystopian feel. But it’s a mumbling mess of pompous words that don’t do nearly enough to explain what follows, or give the slightest clue as to where we’re going.
The rest of the play consists of extended debates between the three strong cast (writer Sigmund, Toby Redpath and Elizabeth Rainbow). For the audience who has been given no knowledge of the whys and whos and hows of it all there’s no way of understanding what’s going on. Cerebral debates only make sense in context and here there is none. I only know Nina is some disgraced cop from the rest of the show blurb, but even learning that doesn’t help in finding the next dot.
It’s not all bad. It does feel like there is a worthwhile play beneath it all. There are moments within the debates where little snippets appear that all too fleetingly promise to give meaning. Margaret Thatcher is identified as an idol for Frank, hinting at the greed and decay of the country. There’s also plenty of humour thrown in, although Frank’s Cockney geezer does wear a little thin by the end. As to why Carver gets highly irate at the realisation Nina’s father is actually dead – well that’s just another dot that is clearly not on the page I’m on.
The cast do put on strong performances; it feels like they know what is going on, clearly having seen the drawing our dots are meant to form. But it doesn’t help, and if anything it just adds to the frustration, as if maybe they are responsible for hiding the initial dot from us.
Put simply, from start to finish I had no concept of what was going on in this show or why. But there’s promise: there is a story lurking beneath that could be drawn out with some proper attention. A few signposts leading us to that first dot would be a great start. Until they’re there, and whilst I can only tell you what a show was about from its own blurb, it’s very clear we are never going to visualise that final drawing.
Written by: TJGW Sigmund
Directed by: Ava W. Stanley
Produced by: The Plague Continent
Boil has completed its current run at Camden Fringe.