Author: Laura Clay

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Friday, August 30th, 2019 at 2:26 pm
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Stanley & To Move In Time

Laura Clay rounds up their 2019 Edinburgh Fringe with two final reviews: Stanley, and To Move In Time

If you could travel through time, would you make small changes, misbehave, help a friend, or alter the course of world history forever? These questions are explored by Tyrone Huggins in Tim Etchell’s monologue on time, its passing and the ramifications of interfering with it.

It starts harmlessly: perhaps a friend loses their wallet, or a relative forgets to buy groceries; or it could be as banal an action as breaking a cooker so you could choose sandwiches over soup at a café.

Soon, though, our protagonist’s thoughts turn to serious matters, such as stopping a man jumping off a bridge. What if this inadvertently caused a world war? Gradually, he realises there’s no such thing as a simple change in the flow of time. Travelling forwards to witness the damage caused by climate change or future wars would hurt too much, so he chooses to visit the day before disasters like 9/11 or the Titanic, then disappear to avoid seeing them happen.

There’s food for thought in the deeper sections; would he prevent Martin Luther King’s assassination, or stop the slave ships from sailing? The sheer effort of moving back and forth to make small corrections and achieve ‘perfection’ is conveyed in every twist and turn of Tyrone’s speech. So much potential harm could come to his world that he might only be able to stand by a window and think about what he’d done.

Tyrone is by turns pensive and playful; on a minimalist set strewn with cue cards he draws the audience in with possibilities and conundrums. At times I found the sentiments to be somewhat repetitive; the section where different superpowers were read out from cards also didn’t seem to fit thematically with the rest of the content.

That said, overall it was a tricksy, lyrical performance that prompts reflection on prioritising the ‘fragile facts’ of the now, watching the seconds unfold as they come.

***

To Move In Time, Summerhall, 24 Aug

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Conor Clarke McGrath, soon to feature in a second season of Netflix’s Sex Education, plays Stanley, the title character, in this period monologue charting decades in the life of a recluse.

We start with a confident, almost swaggering, man in his youth, combing his hair and conducting the radio’s orchestra. He only leaves the house to go to the corner shop, preferring the classical music or the new radio drama The Archers for entertainment.

The most satisfying thing is his daily routine: ironing his clothes and making the perfect cup of tea, which he explains to us in detail. As the years pass, though, his desire to break his routine fades. Days blur together. Stanley wakes, makes his tea with a splash of milk and one squish of the teabag, avoids answering the phone, and complains about the kids outside and his neighbours’ new-fangled loud TV set. His breakdown is gradual, and painful to watch.

It’s a very physical, claustrophobic performance. Small details, such as Stanley’s shaking hands as he pours yet another tea, give subtle clues to the deeper hurt he suffers from a traumatic childhood incident. He can’t sleep; he tries to fill his time with reading, music, and tea, because closing his eyes relives painful memories. ‘Sometimes I think my life ended here,’ he declares in one of the more poignant moments. ‘It was a full stop; the rest is just a postscript.’

While Stanley hates the radio news – you never find out why a disaster has happened, after all – it starts to seep into his perception of reality, along with his beloved Archers characters. We get the feeling his favourite farmer didn’t really die in a village-wide armed shootout, but it’s what he believes.

I would have liked to dig a little deeper into Stanley’s background, but the portrayal of mental health issues was powerfully executed and well-researched. By the time he’s curled up, snarling at even his beloved kettle and trying to block out the outside world, we get a real sense of the struggles faced by young men unable to reach out for help.

****

Stanley, theSpace North Bridge, 24 Aug

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