Signal Failure
signal failure

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Signal Failure at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61). Reviewed by Sally Stott

signal failure
[Relationships are the uneasy part in the underground lives of London’s anonymous commuter class]

It takes a lot to make a romantic comedy original – so many are cynical and heartless reworkings of other reworkings – but Sasha Ellen’s script isn’t about what’s gone before, it’s a genuinely fresh look at not only relationships, but also modern city life.

Like so many Londoners, two 20-something commuters – Lorna, an office worker and Brian, a night-time chef – take the Tube to work, try and fail to avoid looking at people and awkwardly laugh when they do.

“Rush Hour Crush”, a column in one of the free newspapers, which haunt the carriages and platforms, is how they meet – but not in the way you might think. Instead of answering one of the ads placed there, Brian begins stalking the people who place them, going to the carriages they regularly travel in – we are creatures of habit after all – and seeing what happens.

Peter Darney’s fluid and imaginative direction turns a simple set into the winding corridors of stations and burning heat of the train tracks, capturing the discomfort, but also the adrenaline, of travelling in London through some excellent montages.

However, being a stalker is not necessarily that attractive and when Lorna finds out that Brian has a box of his girlfriend’s clothing under his bed, their relationship is challenged in the way they so often are in this genre: through misinterpretation and bloody-mindedness.

It’s the script’s depiction of contemporary relationships, where sex happens first and romance later, which is captured so well. In a reversal of traditional male and female roles, Lorna is gregarious and sexually confident and Brian reticent. We know they are going to end up together, but the moment they do is so beautifully held back that, as Brian stands with tears in his eyes, you may feel the same way.

Until 24 August. Today 2pm, more info

Originally published in The Scotsman

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