Theatre reviews: In Fidelity | Daffodils

In a world where the bigger political picture often seems bleak, it's perhaps not surprising that lighter-touch shows on this year's Fringe often dwell on the intensely personal experience that gives joy and meaning to so many lives '“ falling in love, forming a lasting partnership, and moving towards the unbreakable bond of parenthood, which sends the imprint of our relationship on into a future far beyond our own death.

Todd Emerson and Colleen Davis sing up a storm in Daffodils. Picture: Contributed
Todd Emerson and Colleen Davis sing up a storm in Daffodils. Picture: Contributed

In Fidelity | Rating: ****

Daffodils (A Play With Songs) | Rating: ****

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Venue: Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)

For his latest show, In Fidelity, the Glasgow-based playwright and performer Rob Drummond has decided to explore this sweet mystery of life; and with his usual flair for a touch of popular entertainment, he does it in the format of a cheesy television dating show, in which he invites two single members of the audience to join him for an experimental first date.

There’s more than that simple reality-show element to Drummond’s show, of course, as he adds strands of psychological and neurological information, and a strong layer of self-questioning, offering what’s perhaps a little too much information about his own attitude to sexual fidelity, marriage and parenthood. In Fidelity is a show of immense charm, though; and it approaches a subject that’s central to all our lives with wit, intelligence, and a touch of poetry that doesn’t flinch from the awareness of death that often drives people towards parenthood – and also towards new sexual experiences, however unwise.

The subject of fidelity, or the lack of it, is also central to Daffodils, a play with songs by Bullet Heart Club of New Zealand which has its European premiere at the Traverse this Fringe. Set in New Zealand between the 1960s and the 1990s, it starts out by conjuring up the rock-and-roll Sixties romance between Eric and Rose, the parents of one of the show’s two co-creators, Rochelle Bright and Kitan Petkovski.

Their early story is told through cheerful explosions of Buddy Holly-style rock’n’roll. As Todd Emerson and Colleen Davis radiate charm and vocal power in the two leading roles, the three-piece onstage band plays up a storm, and old family movies of weddings and holidays play on the big screen above the stage.

The show takes a darker turn, though, when we realise that a harsh Presbyterian culture of emotional silence and hidden betrayal, passed on from generation to generation, is about to destroy Eric and Rose as the happy couple they once seemed.

The songs grow rougher and darker, and the harsher side of the New Zealand dream is bravely laid bare in a show based on true life events that finally packs a serious emotional punch, wrapped in a bubblegum glove.

Joyce McMillan

In Fidelity, until 28 August. Times vary; today 7:15pm. Daffodils (A Play With Songs), until 28 August. Times vary; today 10:30pm.