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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007

Underbelly, Edinburgh

Andrew Haydon
posted 28 August 2007

If you need a wholly pleasant way of spending an hour at noon that won’t change your life and won’t try to do so, this is a pretty good bet. Performed by one of those young Cambridge companies who already have CVs to make your eyes water at their sheer industry and numerous apparent talents, Coat is a new adaptation for stage of Gogol’s short story of the same name.

As a reliable source of dark whimsy, Gogol is a longstanding Fringe-favourite. This production offers perhaps the freshest take on the tale seen for some time, since it takes the unusual step of intercutting this tale of a man driven mad by the loss of his perfect frock coat with a narrative charting the rise and fall of a relationship between two young professionals in contemporary Britain.

The company of three performers, including writer Rory Mullarky, switch between characters and time periods – with some gorgeous singing of Russian folk tunes during the scene changes of which I could have happily listened to a good deal more – and deliver the material effectively. It seems fair to say that they are not yet the world’s greatest actors, but what they might lack in technique or direction, they more than compensate for with commitment. Don’t get me wrong, these are highly watchable performers – simply not expert ones.

Most enjoyable is the joke-loaded script, which would make a strong contender in a gag-count against many sketch shows running on the Fringe. The show’s predominantly Footlights provenance shines through, making for a far less po-faced product than many Gogol adaptations can boast, while the writing displays serious promise. Admittedly the way that, having taken to decision to have two intercut narratives, the script fails to combine, tie-up or use them to play off each other significantly, is baffling. But this small point notwithstanding, Mullarky is clearly a new talent to keep an eye on.


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