Edinburgh Festival Fringe @ Newhailes House & Garden, Musselburgh
If you go down to the woods over the next couple of weeks, weather permitting, the surprise in Grid Iron theatre company’s long awaited new outdoor show comes in just how well an open space can work for such expansive material. Much of this in Ben Harrison’s adaptation of Norwegian writer Erlend Loe’s 2004 novel as translated into English by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw is down to designer Becky Minto’s use of space. Working with lighting designer Elle Taylor, Minto’s transformation of a tree covered glade in a National Trust for Scotland run estate into a bijou hideaway for the play’s runaway hero provides a necessary sense of intimacy.
Doppler is a man who seemingly lives an ordinary urban existence with his high-flying wife and two children. Shortly after his father dies, he has an accident on his bike, and responds by moving out of the family home and living in a tent in the forest. In order to survive, he shoots an elk for food. Having committed an act on a par with killing Bambi’s mother, Doppler all but adopts his prey’s calf, christening it Bongo as the animal becomes his sole companion. Or it would if the outside world didn’t keep calling.
With Doppler played by a suitably grizzled Keith Fleming, what emerges in Harrison’s production is an inadvertently timely study of one man’s self isolation and the need sometimes to get back to nature. Doppler’s attempt to get his head together in the country is as much coping strategy following the loss of his father as existential meltdown. Despite the seriousness of the material, there is a lightness at play that comes both from Fleming, and from various turns by Sean Hay and Chloe-Ann Tylor’s as assorted interlopers. As musician Nik Paget-Tomlinson plays David A. Pollock’s live score, it is also a wake-up call to other possibilities. We are all Doppler now, it seems.
The Herald, August 9th 2021