Polko - Edinburgh Fringe 2023
Roundabout at Summerhall – Edinburgh Fringe 2023
RJG productions present UK writer Angus Harrison’s “Polko” at the theatre-in-the-round space, Roundabout at Edinburgh Fringe. This is a play for three actors. Peter, an older gent played by John Macneil, has made let some terrible judgements cloud his interpersonal interactions in his quest for love. Emma, played by Rosie Dwyer, has just lost her job, and returned to her mum and dad’s house. Jo, played by Elliot Norman, is our protagonist and it’s in his car that the action of the play takes place. Emma and Jo are old school friends. In that way that old school friends reconnect this is a painful, playful, and perverse.
It is set in the present. Jo has a dead-end job, lives with his parents out of necessity and no real ambition. Peter has made a disastrous proposal to Jo’s mother attempt and has made some terrible choices on the internet. Emma is suffering with undiagnosed health issues.
There’s a guy called Polko who has disappeared. He’s been a mate of Jo’s and every time he is mentioned Jo is evasive. The brief, punchy scenes are broken by abrasive scratchy static as if amplified from the car radio. The scratchy static suggests there is a secret or something that Jo isn’t owning up to. The performances are terrific, and this is a play of great two-character scenes.
Angus Harrison writes in the first scene that “the play is, among other things, about boredom. Boredom should live inside it. It should feel like nothing is going to happen, so intensely that the world would crack open any minute through the sheer force of listlessness.” I guess all of that is true. But what struck me was that this is a play about legacy. Jo and Emma grapple with tenuous futures. They return to their childhood homes because the promise of anything approaching a career or stability is undetermined. Life is lived in short grabs. Everything is temporary. Jo even prefers his car as a dwelling, on occasion. Peter – from a different generation – is adrift in a world he cannot understand. Where any provision he has made has been rudely stripped from him and now he – with his mother’s engagement ring in his pocket – grabs at any suitable lifeline. Tragic stuff.
It occurred to me that this subject matter and plays like this will mark this period of our time. Hourglass and gig economies, precarious futures, poverty, loneliness, addiction. Unless radical policies are implemented by future governments, the danger is that the boredom Harrison refers to could be a dark harbinger of worse to come.