I spent the end of the Andy Murray singles match even more nail-bitingly than most other people in Scotland. Not only ‘will he win the match?’ but ‘can he do it before I’m going over the road to the Traverse?’
When I’d planned to watch the match in Festival Square, I was worried about whether it might be too crowded. I hadn’t realised, from a grey but dry Fife, that Edinburgh had completely torrential rain. By the time I’d walked over from Haymarket, I was soaked through my ‘waterproof’ jacket.
Luckily, after the first set I managed to bag the only dry seat in Festival Square (the only one of All Bar One’s outdoor seats that actually has a view of the screen).
See the lake in front of me? Yeah. It was freezing too. At least I had chocolate! Standing next to me was a Scottish Federer fan. Hopefully he wasn’t too disappointed with the result!
During the third set, I was on the internet seeing whether I could get a new ticket for The Letter of Last Resort/Good With People, but it was already showing on the Fringe site as sold out till the last four days of its run (I couldn’t get the Traverse site to work on my mobile). It turns out there are actually tickets available on the Traverse site for most days, but I’d say get them while they’re hot! So I decided I’d have to go whatever happened. Luckily Andy Murray put it away with 15 minutes to show time. Yes!
The theatre was absolutely packed. The first play was The Letter of Last Resort, which is about a new Prime Minister’s dilemma when, on her first day in office, she has to write the letter to submarine commanders to tell them what to do if they believe the UK has been annihilated. Retaliate, don’t retaliate, make your own decision, go and offer their services to Australia?
“Australia? Because they’re in the Commonwealth?”
“Because they might be left.”
I enjoyed the characterisation and I think the subject matter is fantastic. However, I did spend most of it wondering whether there had been a West Wing episode on exactly the same thing. Am I making that up? Any giant West Wing fans out there?
The dialogue got a little unnatural at times (though if I was wanting the Sorkin version, you can’t claim I’d get anything more naturalistic there) but I enjoyed the humanity of the Prime Minister and this single-scene two-hander really kept my attention. I particularly liked the bit at the end where the 10 Downing Street backdrop turned into a rough sea and a submarine. Oh and that the Prime Minister’s letter to the submarine commander said something like ‘if you’re reading this, there’s been a terrible fuck-up’.
Since I’d picked this double-bill entirely on the blurb for The Letter of Last Resort, I was surprised that it was Good with People that I preferred. This was set in a run-down hotel in Helensburgh, and was a conversation between a young man returning to the town after many years, and the mother of a boy he’d bullied at school. The nuclear link comes from Helensburgh being by the nuclear submarine base – both characters were connected. I felt really drawn in to the performances by Blythe Duff (I mostly got Taggart out of my mind, but not quite) and Richard Rankin. Mostly, it just felt real to me – and particularly West of Scotland (the male character sounded exactly like my middle stepbrother). “I always felt stupid saying something intelligent here” was one of his lines, and it just sums up the environment. I also enjoyed the clever, minimal staging with props being mysteriously acquired out of the patterned carpet, and I particularly liked the sound, with a drone of the pipes that never left, making everything feel a bit on edge. Highly recommended.
Note: I was given a free ticket for A Letter of Last Resort/Good with People through my blogging for Clicket.