Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: The Wendy House Trilogy: Edmund, Dorothy, Peter reviewed by The Scotsman’s Billy Barrett.
The Wendy House Trilogy: Edmund
The Wendy House Trilogy: Dorothy
The Wendy House Trilogy: Peter
This triptych of interlinked, magical realist stories is staged in Jealous Whale’s purpose-built venue, the Wendy House – a pop-up, transportable grotto of hanging fabrics, chintzy armchairs and quaint ornaments accessed via the back of a wardrobe like a nostalgic, tucked-away Narnia. A family saga charting the legacy of repression and hidden violence in reverse chronology through the generations, the plays draw thematically on The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – transposing those popular classics’characters into a series of dark and contemporary contexts.
There’s more than a hint of homage here to Jethro Compton (formerly of Belt Up Theatre), whose productions have taken place in similarly semi-immersive living room spaces with a small cast, and also most memorably been inspired by Peter Pan and the life of JM Barrie in the oft-revived Fringe favourite The Boy James. If you’re familiar with these, the Wendy House unavoidably feels like aknock-off, but it’s a nicely designed space with some impressive technical elements.
The series’ first instalment, Edmund, charts the last days of Darling family matriarch Wendy, who is bed-bound and cared for by her nephew Edmund. Arguments ensue with bureaucratic health professionals about the ethical quandaries of ceasing her treatment so that she can die peacefully but these are rather circular and shed little light on the complexities of euthanasia.
The middle section, Dorothy, takes us back 30 years or so as Wendy rules tyrannically over a house of emotionally-stunted children. The story centres around buried family shame, and a young boy’s visions of his long-lost sister – the pigtailed heroine with the dog called Toto. Again, the narrative skims the issues at play, and relies on rather heavy-handed characterisation and plot twists, clattering towards a tragic denouement it doesn’t quite earn.
By far the funnest chapter of the three is the evening offering, Peter, which rewinds further back to Wendy’s teenage years as she’s visited at her bedroom window by her boyfriend. It’s a neat tying-up of the loose ends left by the preceding two pieces and its explicit references to the source material make it more enjoyably coherent.
Modelled almost as a farce – Wendy and Peter’s forbidden night-time tryst is constantly interrupted by the entrances of her pill-popping mother and meat cleaver-wielding father – it has a tight structure that palpably builds and climaxes. Peter’s family dynamics are easier to get a handle on than the other two plays and as it’s chronologically the beginning, it works as a standalone story –a kitsch period piece with retro stylings and a melancholic twist.
Greenside @ Infirmary Street (209)
Edmund until 29 August / listings
Dorothy until 29 August / listings
Peter until 29 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 27 August 2015
Edinburgh Festivals 2015: complete coverage
• Get everything on our Festivals homepage – on desktop, mobile or tablet
• Looking for reviews? Check out the latest Scotsman reviews – or browse all the reviews ranked by star rating
• Don’t miss a thing: sign up to our daily email newsletter
• Watch all the latest videos from the #WOWwagon
• Get distracted by our Festival Blog
• Check out today’s half-price ticket deals
• Follow our social accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and join the conversation with #WOWfest
• Download the WOW247 app for iOS and Android