‘Earwig’ (Assembly Rooms, Front Room, until AUG 27)

“The three energetic performers beetle away to pack a lot of fun into an hour’s traffic on the stage.”

Editorial Rating:  Stars (Outstanding)

Whilst perhaps not the most attractive of titles, this is one of the most unusual and interesting pieces of theatre I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe. After successfully touring throughout the UK, Manchester-based theatre company Time and Again bring us the quirky story of entomologist Marigold Webb, whose deafness excludes her from conversations not directly before her face.

Laura Crow’s script makes much use of insect life as metaphor, with characters being likened to wasps, hornets, golden tiger beetles, and the like. The production by directors Catherine Cowdrey and Samantha Vaughan offers an hour that is both entertaining and informative without taking itself too seriously. Robyn Greeves anchors the show as the protagonist, calmly and wryly narrating the difficulties faced in the 1920s by a woman who is not only deaf, but trying to make her way in the male-dominated scientific world. Adam Martin-Brooks first comes across as a Bertie Woosterish toff, but as the play progresses he mutates into Marigold’s domineering and abusive husband. Beth Nolan gives eye-catching performances as both Marigold’s down-to-earth mother and as Bryony Varden, the very personification of a flighty jazz-age flapper. A projection screen at the back of the set is used very much as if it were another character, with its captions often interacting with both the cast and the audience.

This is also a very visual and physical piece of theatre. One of the high points was a vividly choreographed set piece between Marigold and Bryony supposedly reading quietly in a library. Their exchanged looks, messages, and attempts to ignore each other and do some studying are expressed with increasingly terpsichorean verve and at one stage even break into a Charleston. Along with the screen captions, the pacy action often has the feel of a silent movie of the era in which the play is set. Throughout the action, we are subtly reminded of Marigold’s deafness and the problems it causes in a number of inventive and dramatically effective ways.

Performed in a smallish black-box auditorium in George Street, this is a little gem of a play, with the three energetic performers beetling away to pack a lot of fun into an hour’s traffic on the stage. Come for the entomology. Stay for the Charleston. Leave with ants in your pants and a spring in your step. Get your coats on and beetle along to see this!


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