Theatre review: Locus Amoenus

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Spread across rows of empty seats, two men and a woman sit on a train. Known simply as 1, 2 and 3, they're on the kind of mundane journey many of us do all the time.

Summerhall (Venue 26)


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However, they’re about to die – in 55 minutes, captions on a screen tell us – when a rabbit will wander on to the track and cause a fatal crash.

“So, now you know the ending,” the captions wryly quip. And the countdown begins. It’s a simple but emotive concept that turns the small conflicts and connections between the characters into something poignant, high-stakes and ultimately sad.

The unnamed characters do the kind of things people on trains do: one reads George’s Orwell’s 1984, another listens to headphones, another tries have a chat, much to the annoyance of the first two. Suspense grows to the silent sound of the invisible ticking clock. Subtle movements and smiles between the two men lead to an amusing battle to break down language barriers. When it becomes apparent that the woman on the headphones can translate, she’s involuntarily drawn into the men’s chat – something she quickly responds to by upping the volume of her eclectic music collection. Dance, flamenco, classical: the train rattles on to the sound of her mix tape, the men’s broken English and Orwell’s Winston and Julia spending their final moments together.

The crash grows nearer and the woman paints her face, a tragic clown.

One of the men listens to the final words from a loved-one on a phone: “pick up some toilet roll”.

The other man simply eats a sandwich and opens a carton of juice.

“Where would you rather be?” the captions at one point ask – as they describe the countryside outside and invite us to appreciate everyday moments that, when confronted by the prospect of death, are made beautiful.

Until 27 August. Today 2:50pm.