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You and Me
Published on Wednesday, 22 May 2013

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4 stars

The Nightingale (venue website)
17-19 May, 9:00pm-10:00pm
Reviewed by Darren Taffinder

You and Me starts with a bang, or rather, a fart. It might be my inner twelve-year-old coming out – but if you can’t laugh at a good fart joke, then something must be wrong with you. At its heart this is a deeply human show, and after all, you can’t get any more human than flatulence.

The plot concerns about two elderly Spanish sisters living together in a house full of boxes – sometimes getting on, sometimes not. It’s anchored by the wonderful physical performances of Patricia Rodriguez and Mercé Ribot. They’re constantly switching between English and Spanish, which gives their performance a unique cultural identity.

I’ve lived abroad on-and-off throughout my life, and there’s something authentically ex-pat about the feeling of this play: as an ex-pat, wherever you live there’s always a slight sense of isolation, and an almost pathological need to hoard your past. These two sisters are so alone in the world that a knock on the door produces a mix of terror and curiosity.

But this makes it sound a lot more serious than it is. It’s a very funny show, and there are some great moments of surreal lunacy. I loved Rodriguez’s impassioned speech on why she has decided not to die (complete with actions by Ribot), and there’s a dance sequence where the two sisters lip-synch to a song that’s just brilliant. When they come up with a grass-roots campaign promoting laziness, you almost want to take to the streets with them. Director Bryony Shanahan knows how to stretch a joke out to maximise the laughs without overstaying its welcome; Rodriguez’s over-reaction to the opening fart is a great example of how far you can push something.

The only problem is the play wants to be more bittersweet than it really is. The end in particular strains for a poignancy that just isn’t there. After the surprising opening, the second half becomes a little mawkish and, I hate to say it, predictable; and as the play wore on I found the characters a little too screechy, a tad too loud. It just needed to be dialled back a degree or two.

So it’s not quite exceptional (yet), but this is still a good, funny show. I’ve seen five shows now at the Nightingale during the Fringe: two of them have been superb, two almost there, and even the one I was disappointed by was still visually interesting. They’ve had a great first half to the festival.

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