The Object Lesson

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): The Object Lesson at Summerhall (Venue 26). Review by Sally Stott

The emotions we attach to inanimate objects are ingeniously explored in actor-illusionist-inventor Geoff Sobelle’s immersive show, which takes place in a warehouse-like space filled with boxes of random stuff full of hidden significance: an old record player, a half-finished bottle of wine, a dusty block of traffic lights.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys audience participation or you’re one of those vulture-like people who gets a kick out of watching other people forced into it, this is a piece for you. If you get picked and you’d rather not be, you might feel differently.

After my bag is thrown aside – causing the woman next to me to cackle with joy, pleased it’s not hers – a simple love story of a man’s past relationship is told through a brilliantly conceived series of scenes.

Sobelle picks out female audience members and manipulates them into participating in some of these – in particular, a telephone conversation that challenges our preconceptions of time and space.
They’re clever but not entirely comfortable sequences to watch – ones that require the women picked to do as they’re told, rather than actively participate. Instructed not to try and perform or be funny, they are turned into objects too and – like the items in the boxes – used to tell his story.

Sobelle (or his character; it’s hard to tell where one starts and the other ends) isn’t particularly sympathetic, impatiently pushing us around and throwing things aside like frustrated child irritated by an unspecified problem.

At times it’s difficult to see what’s happening from where I’m sitting, especially when a man with a large camera, who seems to be taking production shots, keeps pointing it in front of my face. In an intimate show where even taking notes feels like it might be disruptive, this somewhat shatters the magic.

Until 24 August. Today 6pm, more info

Originally published in The Scotsman

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