Edinburgh Festival Fringe Theatre Reviews: I Hope Your Flowers Bloom | Distant Memories of the Near Future | Donut Dollies | The Return | A Year and a Day | The Brilliance of Broken Glass

Some clear-sighted, introspective solo storytelling and an ominously deadpan speculative meditation on the future of technology are among the highlights of our latest round-up of Fringe theatre reviews.

I Hope Your Flowers Bloom ****

Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30) until 27 August

The text of Scottish actor Raymond Wilson’s reserved, introspective piece of solo storytelling theatre does a lot of ambitious things, yet it does them all very subtly. The peaks and troughs of the personal drama being described are levelled off somewhat by his lovely, hypnotically measured delivery, making a little incident go a long way on its sure-footed emotional journey.

In I Hope Your Flowers Bloom, Wilson plays a not-completely-accurate version of himself, recounting a story (it’s uncertain how much is true and how much fictional, but nor does it matter) in which he sets out looking for love with a new female friend and ends up learning to love the natural world around him instead.

Hide Ad

As the child of a grey concrete council estate, this Raymond’s only exposure to this world was the tree which stood in the park across the road from his childhood home, until the council chopped it down.

Yet Raymond still knows all the scientific names for and properties of the trees he encounters. Now, as a young man living in a world emerging from lockdown, he meets a young woman travelling up from England named Flo, who goes on drifting explorations in her camper van. Together they travel, as she flits in and out of his world, building a platonic friendship alongside a shared appreciation of the geography and natural environment of Scotland.

Yet Raymond would like their friendship to be more, and when he broaches this with her, that friendship falters. Under the direction of Fiona Mackinnon, the form of the piece comes together beautifully, as Raymond develops an understanding that other people and the natural world don’t bend to fit the shape of his desires.

I Hope Your Flowers Bloom (Photo Copyright Jassy Earl)I Hope Your Flowers Bloom (Photo Copyright Jassy Earl)
I Hope Your Flowers Bloom (Photo Copyright Jassy Earl)

On a small-scale level of his own relationship with his class and masculinity, and on a wider level humanity’s acquisitive grasp on the planet, this clear-sighted piece speaks softly but says a lot.

David Pollock

Distant Memories of the Near Future ***

Summerhall (Venue 26) until 27 August

Writer and performer David Head’s series of interconnected, multi-media vignettes speculating upon the future of technology and its effect upon human relationships bridges the galaxy’s distance between satirical comedy and existential poignancy. Head hosts in a pink jumpsuit, appearing to be either a prisoner of or a tour guide to the quasi-dystopian mid-21st century era he’s constructed.

There certainly is an ominous tone to this world, which imagines that Switzerland’s ‘guinea pig law’ of 2008 – that it’s illegal to own only one guinea pig, such is their noted tendency towards loneliness – has been extrapolated to the whole human race. Now it’s illegal not to be paired off, with the help of a new dating app named Q-pid, which studies a person’s every physical and psychological detail and ascertains their perfect and most likely-to-reciprocate mate.

Hide Ad

There are other such apps in the future, including the sleazier Babeotics; WonderBox, which digitises a person’s voice so it may live on, although companies which specialise in advertising and announcements may now purchase it; and Emily, a digitised character apparently created with real AI.

Head’s show is a feast, albeit one which sometimes feels overstuffed by its brisk jumping around between characters and scenarios, yet his deadpan commentary on technology’s pitfalls is on the money, and his puppet scenario imagining a stranded and doomed space miner remembering her late wife is deeply poignant.

David Pollock

Donut Dollies ***

Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Venue 236) until 12 August

Hide Ad

Three slick performances, a careful attention to authenticity and - full disclosure - a free homemade donut make for a pleasant hour of gentle nostalgia in this new play from debut playwright Giselle Fischman and co-writer Francesca Reggio.

The “donut dollies” were US women who joined the American Red Cross during World War II and trained to drive throughout Europe in buses that had been covered to cook and serve donuts to the troops.

Louise (Fischman), Marnie (Reggio) and Elnora (Krista Mae Griffin) find themselves stationed in Britain tasked with supporting the troops in the only way that’s open to them. Each has their won reasons - for Ellie it’s a way to be closer to. Her sweetheart who’s been missing in action for over five months but the horrors of war - and indeed the rubble strewn glamour of London - are merely a backdrop to some empowering female bonding.

In truth, nothing too dramatic happens; the script moves like a TV pilot, swiftly introducing and delineating its characters and their burgeoning camaraderie. Its a diverting little history lesson - perfectly pitched to the show’s morning time slot - the three friends make for good company and the free donut (freshly cooked by Reggio, apparently) proved very tasty.

Rory Ford

The Return **

Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33) until 15 August

A shifting tapestry of testimonial, music and poetry, The Return is Croatian-born performer Natasha Stanic Mann’s attempt to reckon with the long aftermath of war, having lived through the breakup of former Yugoslavia.

Mann lends a perceptive eye upon trauma and humanity’s long history of migration; however, its disjointed vignettes, and an uneven tone throughout, muddles The Return’s ultimate intentions and undermines its undeniable lyricism.

Hide Ad

Even Mann at times seems to lose confidence in her own storytelling, breaking her narrative flow to explain metaphors in painstaking detail. Ultimately, The Return is a feat of great ambition whose ideas deserve more time and space to breathe.

Deborah Chu

A Year and a Day **

the Space on the Mile (Venue 39) until 19 August

A charmingly virtuosic performance from writer Christopher Sainton-Clark goes a long way to help guide you through this only occasionally diverting tale of temporal dislocation.

Hide Ad

After a botched heist and with a gun against his head, our protagonist Nathan finds himself fast-forwarding through his own life - a year and a day at a time - whenever he loses consciousness. The dramatic - and humorous - potential of Nathan’s journey are not unexplored but they are rather undercut by Sainton-Clark’s conceit of having the whole piece performed in rhyme.

While this does cleverly suggest that Nathan is out of sync with everyone around him it may also have the effect of distancing his plight from the audience too.

Rory Ford

The Brilliance of Broken Glass **

Underbelly George Square (Venue 300)

Until 28 August

It’s tricky keeping pace with slam performer Brooke Vakin’s train of thought as she runs away with her personal tale of medical misadventure. She has two modes of delivery – superfast animation and soft-spoken mumble – and neither are conducive to comprehension.

She is eloquent in her wordplay and cultural connections but not articulate so it’s easy to miss the nuances in this lightning bolt of an hour on how botched surgery wrecked her fertility to the point where she refers to herself as Madame Novary.

Fiona Shepherd