‘9 Circles’ (Assembly George Square Studios, until AUG 29)

“Joshua Collins is an enigmatic ball of furious energy sparking dangerously off officialdom.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

Guy Masterson’s done it again. He’s promised something BIG and he’s delivered. In these pages I’ve described Guy as “The First Knight of The Fringe”. In many ways Guy IS the Fringe. A veteran of coming on for thirty Augusts, in good times and bad, he’s brought with him to Edinburgh shows that set the standard by which all other Fringe theatre is measured. Guy’s got one of the best eyes in the business for scripts, for talent, and for design. He can take 2 and 2 and make 10, but give him 5 and 5 and he’ll make something even greater still. This year he’s got a strong script, an even stronger cast, flawless production values, and an hour’s worth of stage traffic that goes deep and dark.

We enter to find not 9 circles but 2, one on stage, the other framing the drama from behind. Rings of LED lighting in each help to capture and distil the distressing and unpalatable truths we’re about to mishandle. Here is the story, based on real events, of a young American soldier facing the consequences for a wartime atrocity that he may, or may not, have committed. The System that under-educated him, under-employed him, and which took him into the army despite his being morally suspect from day 1 – that same The System is now going to determine whether he lives or dies, is guilty or not guilty of the appalling crime of which he is accused.

As Private Daniel E Reeves, Joshua Collins is an enigmatic ball of furious energy sparking dangerously off officialdom’s procession of army lawyers, federal prosecutors, and even a reverend pastor. Collins’ humanizes his monster so successfully we momentarily find ourselves forgetting what his character is accused of – the rape and murder of a chid, the destruction of her family. One crime in an ocean of wartime guilt. Is it right to focus exclusively on the perpetrator instead of the victim? That’s one of several tough questions not to be raised round the family dinner table in Morningside after you leave the show.

Collins’ performance sets him out as one to watch in the coming years, especially when he’s working with actors of the calibre of his current co-stars Samara Neely Cohen, Daniel Bowerbank, and David Calvitto. Bowerbank is flawless. Neely Cohen nearly steals the show. Calvitto – despite a few minor early-in-the-run slips with the heavily redacted script – brings that precision of bearing that makes him such a Fringe favourite. The three best and most successful casts in Edinburgh right now are Sir John Steell’s ‘Alexander and Bucephalus’ (outside the City Chambers on the Royal Mile); Steell’s rearing equestrian statue of The Duke of Wellington (outside Register House on Princes’ St); and the cast of Guy Masterson’s ‘9 Circles’ which fully deserves the big crowds it’s already drawing in.


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