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A Dastardly Fiction
Published on Sunday, 12 August 2012
4

4 stars

Greenside (venue website)
Theatre
3-11, 20-25 Aug, 7:35pm-8:35pm; 13-18 Aug, 11:05pm-12:05am
Reviewed by Allison Mckeon

 Recommended for age 16+ only.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

I’ve been waiting to see a Fringe show which jumps on the post-modern bandwagon – the one currently occupied by the likes of TV series Community, and more works of literature than I can count. Well, A Dastardly Fiction does indeed play all the dastardly mind-games characteristic of ‘meta’ – a term which describes a work which calls attention to its own artificiality. Imagine if you turned on an episode of Friends in which Monica turned to Chandler mid-argument and said “I wrote your character, but now I wish I’d made you more like Joey”: that little mind-bomb would be meta. This show likewise plays with the boundaries of actor and character, creator and subject, and reality and fiction, with a trickiness as gleeful as the Demon who orchestrates the whole affair.

A struggling and apparently talentless author has sold his soul to a she-Demon in exchange for literary success, unaware that soon after he completes the first few chapters, his characters will come to life. They deeply resent the narrative arc of the author has laid out for each other them (though all for varying reasons, explored throughout the show). They have personalities and desires at odds with what the author intends for them; which is an interesting concept, and certainly a more unique issue than unrequited love or any other cliché. They decide to shatter the narrative reality into which they’re forced by murdering the author, which presents them with the task of figuring out who he is. Hijinks ensue.

The dialogue is witty and fast-paced, the characters are amusing without devolving into overdone caricatures, and there’s a bit of easy physical comedy to break up the head-muddling back-and-forth between story and story-within-story. The repartee is close to unparalleled by any other Fringe show I’ve seen yet, and the Demon in particular is spectacularly short-tempered and delightfully wicked. She does much for the show with her stomping around, rolling her eyes, and lusting after the author.

I did, however, think the script had an awful lot going on, which maybe suggests it tried a bit too hard. While the delivery was impeccable, the show sometimes got a little carried away with its own cleverness. For example, the program advertises the characters’ (not the actors’) twitter accounts – we get it, they transcend the confines of fiction.

But A Dastardly Fiction is unquestionably funny, with just enough darkness to give it an edge. It provokes thought, captivates until the very end, and is performed supremely. Your mind will certainly be on the show for a while after viewing – whether you’re reliving Maple’s hilarious befuddlement, or untangling the repercussions of the placement of a certain pie.

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