Theatre review: Assessment

Stephen Clyde as the man offered a 'deal' in Assessment. Picture: Aidan O'Mara
Stephen Clyde as the man offered a 'deal' in Assessment. Picture: Aidan O'Mara
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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: The rhetoric is all in place already for the disturbing vision of the near future conjured up in Robert Dawson Scott’s new play.

Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre (Venue 76)

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We know that the population is ageing, and that old people represent a growing burden on the public purse.

And we know that we live in a time when outsourced companies hired by the state make it their business – in a blizzard of euphemistic jargon – to bully vulnerable people into losing the help that they need, 
in order to meet cost-cutting targets.

So when a smart representative of one of those companies turns up at the door of 77-year-old Alan McDonald, the “deal” he offers sounds tempting; to his daughter Karen, a cash-starved single mother, the offer of £30,000 to forego some of his pensions rights seems like a dream come true.

What the official is proposing, though, is not that Alan live on without his pension, but that he does not live on at all; and in a fine dramatic paradox, it’s the knowledge that his own daughter has even considered this scheme that begins to drive Alan, poignantly played by Stephen Clyde, towards despair.

It has to be said that the play is not well served, on its Fringe debut, by an old-fashioned, over-naturalistic production, featuring a sofa and grey hair-powder, and by shocking noise interference in its Rose Theatre venue.

The situation is so well-imagined, though, and so clearly and credibly linked to the world in which we are already living, that it sounds a warning not to be ignored, delivered through fine supporting performances from Taqi Nazeer and Selina Boyack as the officials who are “only doing their jobs”, and Karen Bartke as the daughter who betrays her dad for cash, finally robbing his life of all meaning.

Until 28 August. Today 2:30pm.