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Published on Thursday, 26 August 2010

3 stars

theSpaces on the Mile @ The Radisson (venue website)
23 - 28 Aug, 6:05pm (6:55pm)
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

Two men stuck in a lift: a nice simple set-up for a nice, simple play.  With their gentle, well-acted comedy Uplifting, Fringe debutantes The Atre Company tell a heartwarming tale of two enemies forced to become friends – and deliver a couple of lessons about how to live our lives along the way.

Salesman Bill is having a bad day; just how bad’s revealed in an entertaining opening monologue, where he describes a minor office mishap which gets ridiculously out of hand.  As we’ll learn, though, there are longer-term problems in Bill’s outwardly successful life… he’s a lonely man, whose attempts to woo the opposite sex are blighted by spoonerisms and unintended double entendres.  Funny for us, but not so for him, and he hides his discomfort with a constant wry cynicism; his character’s filled with witty sharpness but, somehow, also rather sad.

Sharing the lift is Jim the window cleaner, a cheeky chappie with a gratuitously dumbed-down accent, who’s failed in a series of menial jobs – and looks unlikely to succeed in his current one.  For much of the play I dismissed Jim as a mere counterpoint to Bill, but the script delivers a deserved riposte to those who diminish him through that comparison.  His happy-go-lucky demeanour, it turns out, conceals a secret problem… and through his dilemma, the play makes a worthy attempt to speak up for those who find their real-life prospects limited in the same way.

Slotting neatly around Bill and Jim’s dialogue, actors Alan Moorhouse and Brial Gillet often step outside the imagined lift and into to other roles.  They’re all hooked off the trapped pair’s life stories in one way or another, but these short pastiches take in a vast range of ideas, ranging from the hilariously incongruous (a middle-aged man acting the role of a teenage girl in a nightclub) to the somewhat off-colour (paedophilia and the Pope).  The vignettes, it seems, are where the two actors are given licence to come out of themselves; but I’d have liked to have seen more of the same expansiveness applied to the main characters, who I never found quite big or bold enough to keep the energy flowing along.

Needless to say, Bill and Jim hit it off in the end, striking a deal which is a bit too convenient to be entirely believable but left a soppy smile on my face, all the same.  And there’s a neat parable along the way on the power of teamwork to overcome problems we find insurmountable on our own.  All in all, this may not be life-changing theatre… but it was indeed Uplifting.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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