Theatre review: The History of the World Through Banalities
Theatre review: The History of the World Through Banalities

Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: The History of the World Through Banalities, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Susan Mansfield. ★★★★ Philip’s mother tries to do her best for him, but she has always been more interested in her work as a physicist. When she returns after years of working at Cern with a blank expression on …

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The History of the World Through Banalities

Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: The History of the World Through Banalities, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Susan Mansfield.

★★★★

Philip’s mother tries to do her best for him, but she has always been more interested in her work as a physicist. When she returns after years of working at Cern with a blank expression on her face and the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease, he decides to do for her what she never quite managed to do for him: to be there, and look after her. Johan De Smet’s play for Belgian company Kopergietery – performed here in English for the first time – is by turns surprising, funny and poignant in its evocation of Philip’s world.

While he has chosen to restrict himself to the confines of their apartment, his mind roams free, stopping to examine objects which interest him, from the most mundane to the most mysterious.

Belgian actor Titus De Voogdt (Vincent Bourg in The Missing) gives a compelling performance as a young man damaged by his experiences and yet apparently limitless in his capacity for wonder, and determination to make sense of the damaged world around him.

Never before has the Higgs-Boson particle been explained with a metaphor of chips and mayonnaise.

The dirty kitchen set at first appears to be a symbol of his confinement, but he wilfully disregards its boundaries, even as drawers and cupboards open to enable new components of the story to be told. There are books that catch fire, coins that vanish and a miracle cake that bakes itself, though Geoffrey Burton’s electric guitar soundtrack, while appropriately teenage, is occasionally too loud.

Philip’s mother was interested in the history of the world at the level of particles and atoms. His history is a very different one, told with action figures and Roman coins and origami apples.

While the story is of loss, and a failure to connect, it is evoked with such invention and with such a lively, questing, unsentimental voice that it is a delight to watch.

Summerhall (Venue 26) until 14 August / listings

Published in The Scotsman on 11 August 2015

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