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  • Kate Gaul

Adults - Edinburgh Fringe 2023

I adore Playwright Kieran Hurley’s “Mouthpiece”so I was keen to see “Adults”. Alienation and the gulf between generations is explored as is the futility of blame culture and how we make things better for those who come after us. This is a black comedy which at first glance can feel a little formulaic in the writing, but its ultimate message is something that resonates.

Set in Edinburgh’s New Town Zara (Dani Heron) is a sex worker, and her brothel is an ethical one – run as a worker’s collective – and she’s proud of the judgement-free service on offer. A new client turns up, before her colleague Jay (Anders Hayward) arrives. The client (Conleth Hill) turns out to be her former English teacher, Mr Urquhart, or Iain. Cringe! He told her she could do anything. But she’s found that that’s not true in the gig economy world she entered when she left university. Jay finally turns up, with a baby in a pusher. It’s a bit of a mood killer. Iain hasn’t been to a brothel before, and he and Jay must work out what exactly Iain wants. Ian’s life hasn’t worked out the way he imagined either. He’s nervous, scared and now embarrassed. He believes he’s acting on his attraction to young men to neutralise his growing misery with his marriage, his job, his kids – his entire life.

Reality keeps intruding on this potentially fantastic encounter. There’s a lot of inevitable chatting to work through Hurley’s serious capitalist themes. The crux of the matter is that all three characters have more in common then they might imagine. Most of the play is farce and the technical brilliance of this cast on it’s A-game is a pleasure to watch. Zara’s business-like bravado and plain-speaking approach to her business are perfectly captured by Dani Heron. Jay’s reckless desperation as he faces his own aging process and mounting financial pressures are note-perfect in the hands of Anders Hayward. Conleth Hill’s portrayal of self-loathing and defensiveness drives the drama. He’s done everything right, hasn’t he? So why does it all feel so wrong?

Roxanna Silbert directs this neat three-hander in a way that we connect with each character, and not just a bunch of foibles for fun. It often feels like a play of two flavours – the farce and the state of the nation. One of the challenges of the piece is to flip from farce, gags, and comic timing to the ultimate sexual encounter that Jay and Iain must navigate. This is not an easy ask. The final moments when Iain allows himself to be held by Jay is both satisfying, tragic and earned. Doomed we may well be but let’s have a laugh and if comfort comes your way – grab it.

Kate Gaul


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