Theatre review: Heather

Ashley Gerlach and Charlotte Melia face off in Heather. Picture: Contributed
Ashley Gerlach and Charlotte Melia face off in Heather. Picture: Contributed
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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Recluse Heather Eames (a jaw-droppingly excellent Charlotte Melia) has just submitted her debut novel to a publishing house: a charming, Harry Potter-esque story about a girl named Greta and her magic pen.

Summerhall (Venue 26)

*****

Through a series of email exchanges with her new editor, Harry, (Ashley Gerlach, also brilliant), we vicariously experience Heather’s joy and excitement as he accepts her manuscript; the wild acclaim that greets the book’s publication; and the hurried development of plans for franchise rights, merchandise, film adaptations, the works – a sequence of events that seems both ludicrously rapid and yet somehow unable to keep pace with Greta’s meteoric success.

Unfortunately for newly flush Harry, though, Heather has a secret. A really big one.

While it’s more than a little clichéd to say that any more would ruin the surprise, do take us at our word. Without divulging plot details though, it’s safe enough to reveal the essence of Heather’s three distinct acts: those introductory emails, read aloud by Heather and Harry; a conversation between the two; and, finally, an extract from Greta.

That second act is one of the most tense, riveting scenes you will experience at this year’s Fringe – a perfectly constructed face-off employing layers of revelations and accusations, with just enough black humour in place to function as a pressure valve to release tension in the room before building it slowly back up to bursting point.

With such a whirlwind opening and incendiary follow-up, the third act feels less impactful (though it does a masterful job of up-ending the set’s grey, clinical tones for something much more kinetic and action-packed).

The standard of writing remains high – award-winning playwright Thomas Eccleshare (Pastoral) has clearly had great fun creating his Rowling-adjacent fictional universe. But while the themes in the Greta excerpt deftly tie together the themes of Heather as a whole, it can’t quite match up to the white-hot confrontation at the play’s core.

It’s Harry and Heather coming face-to-face, however, that will stay with you long after the curtain has fallen.

Until 27 August.Today 5.:55pm.