Theatre review: Arthur. The venue? Your living room

Daniel's appearance on the Fringe alongside his baby son Arthur, born in March this year, amounts to far more than a gimmick
Daniel's appearance on the Fringe alongside his baby son Arthur, born in March this year, amounts to far more than a gimmick
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It may be the first Fringe show ever to star a father-and-son double act in which the son was barely conceived at the time of last year’s Festival.

Arthur, In people’s homes, around Edinburgh, * * * *

When the father in question is Daniel Bye, though – creator and performer of previous thought-packed Fringe hits including Going Viral and Instructions For Border Crossing – we can be sure that his appearance on the Fringe alongside his baby son Arthur, born in March this year, will amount to far more than a gimmick; and so it proves, in a show that sets out to explore that fast-evolving science of epigenetics, with its growing insight into how much of our identity is shaped by our genes – and into the equally mysterious truth that those same genes often express themselves very differently, under different conditions.

Over a gentle 50 minutes or so, in a show that can be booked to take place in homes around Edinburgh, Bye therefore introduces us to Arthur, and then to a little of their shared family history. In particular, he shows us a photograph of Arthur’s great-great-grandfather Harry, taken during the Battle of the Somme.

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Harry’s grandad is standing with a group of British soldiers holding a German prisoner, and is reaching out his water bottle to give the man a drink; and the image opens up a series of fascinating revelations and questions about whether the image suggests that Harry was a brave and kind man, about whether such traits can be inherited (they can), and about whether the fact that Harry survived the war, after winning a Military Medal for delivering a vital message through a hail of gunfire, suggests that he was a fast runner – after all, Dan too likes to run.

Meanwhile, Arthur makes a chortling tour of the audience, turning in a remarkably poised and cheerful performance for one so small; but not before his Dad – with his Mum Sarah Punshon directing – has taken us deep into the loving detail of his family history, but also out into a world that knows ever more about the genes that help to shape us, but still has not cracked the mystery of that mixture of nature, nurture and chance that makes us our unique irreplaceable selves.

Until 25 Aug.

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