Theatre Review: Catching Comets, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Ali Michael is in fine form in this witty, funny and ultimately quite realistic monologue. Picture: Contributed
Ali Michael is in fine form in this witty, funny and ultimately quite realistic monologue. Picture: Contributed
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A familiar story of a man who fears getting hurt, so can’t commit, though in his fantasy life he’s an all-action hero

Catching Comets, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh ****

A casually-dressed man paces around an empty stage and somehow manages to make it feel like something really dramatic is about to happen. However, unless you’ve recently read the Fringe Guide, you’d be unlikely to guess that this is a multi-dimensional mash-up of a save-the-world action adventure paired with a modern-day love story and the wonders of outer space.

Wittily written and directed by Piers Black and performed with flair by Ali Michael, it’s a one-man monologue that effortlessly switches tones as rapidly as it’s wannabe hero, mild-mannered romantic Toby, who works in a space observatory, moves around the box-like set. Toby tells us that this is a real-life story based upon something that happened to him last year. And then, like an atom, the piece splits, into two connected storylines: a very funny pastiche of the generic action films Toby loves, as he attempts to prevent a comet from hitting earth, and a more naturalistic love story following his struggles to develop a relationship with a defiantly untrained dancer called Forest Green.

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It’s a piece that takes the familiar story of a man who fears getting hurt, so can’t commit to a kooky woman who has no such issues (“I was a mess, she was a rock star”) and blasts it into more outlandish territory, to highlight the pressures a sensitive chap faces to ‘man up’ in a world where the fantasy conceals insecurity.

As the comet gets ever closer to earth, a pre-packaged ‘happy ending’ that offers a snappy metaphor for love via the cosmos is side-stepped in favour of something more down to earth. Toby might not ‘get the girl and save the day’, but the play’s conclusion suggests relationships can’t be the ‘ultimate adventure’ when one of the people involved is on a mission to sabotage the journey.

Until 25 August.

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