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'Asides from the Elbow' Review: A Thoughtfully Written, Excellently Cast Performance

Written by Louis Newstead

Have you ever peeled back the anatomy of a student house? Charted the complex web of veins and arteries beneath that keep the heart ticking on? If not, 'Asides from the Elbow' is the perfect introduction to household anatomy 101.

All photography by Abby Swain (Instagram: @aswainphotography)

Set entirely outside of the eponymous bar ‘The Elbow’, the play follows four friends navigating the layered turmoil of living together. Complete with subtly hinted-to past entanglements, the immediacy of unfolding emotional drama and, importantly, the perfect dosage of laughing gas to enrapture an audience for fifty minutes. The stage? Minimally dressed with a centrepiece bench as fitting as can be for late night alcohol-induced heart to hearts about relationships close and distant, paired with the kind of old fashioned dustbin you might see in a Tom and Jerry cartoon, used periodically to ward off the interruptions of various off-stage drunks. The characters? Pitch perfect reinterpretations of the very people you will have encountered throughout your university experience, from the self-pitying shaggy bandmember Chris (Matty Edgar) to the well-meaning chronic overthinker Joy (Lucy Yellow), with the irony of such a name apparent in many scenes spent theorizing with a pessimistic resignation over the nature of the sexes and relationships. Each character is written with enough realistic complexity to keep you engrossed in their progression throughout the play, they all have their ups and downs, their emotional outpourings, and writer/director Rebecca Harrison demonstrates a deft touch in the art of tension and release as the intersecting emotional plotlines all come to a satisfying climax in the very same surroundings they were formed.

Any review of this play would be incomplete without specific mention of the fantastic comedic timing of Perry (Carrie Clarke), who radiates a relatable streak of self-deprecation marbled with a charming confidence that allows her to say what she wants to whoever she likes, even if this means naively – or perhaps pragmatically – undercutting the tension of building arguments. Perry’s no-nonsense approach to peer interaction pairs wonderfully with every other character, from Joy’s frequent philosophising to Chris’s moping and especially Sam’s (Charlie Crozier) straight-man act, with a convincing emotional congestion that prevents him from ever truly expressing himself to any one of his friends without an accompanying grimace. Harrison and her production team, including assistant director Ellie Mullins, producer Meg Ferguson and marketing producer Olivia Taylor-Goy, have collaborated to create a piece of theatre that is guaranteed to strike a chord with anyone carving their path through young adulthood.

'Asides from the Elbow' is a thoughtfully written, excellently casted performance in which every actor melds perfectly into the archetype of their character in such a way that it is entirely possible these scenes were ripped directly from a recording of intoxicated smoking area chats (with significantly less slurring). Though the pensive pauses and impossibly eloquent emotional crescendos may not be suited to the more plot-driven or action-inclined of viewers, this play’s pinnacle is its dynamic character interactions displaying a depth of emotional dependency throughout. Its multi-layered, whispered-under-the-breath jokes are sure to reward repeat viewings, with a host of character intricacies that many audience members will surely find themselves reflected in. These friendships may peter out in the coming years, consigned to the vault of youth, but, like our own roster of revolving door connections, we can only hope that the cherished moments catalogued here continue to provide us with that brilliant warmth of nostalgia that sustains us on colder nights to come.

'Asides from the Elbow' will be performed in the Perth Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from the 5th to the 14th of August, get your tickets for this unmissable performance here.

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