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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow The Ribbon Tied
The Ribbon Tied
4 stars

65 Cowgate
3-25 August, 5:30pm-6:30pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

Performing as part of PBH’s Free Fringe, The Ribbon Tied is a substantial piece of free theatre – packing a full-scale set and a two-member cast into a room behind a bar on the Cowgate.  Focused on an apparently-unexpected reunion between a pair of former sweethearts, the action takes place overnight in student digs in an anonymous university city.  We see the young Dean and Cass share memories, some of which are happy and some of which are dark, and hash over the quarrels of the past.  Yet also, perceptibly and rather sweetly, we see them slowly grow together once again.

The dialogue is certainly realistic – but, I’m afraid, it tends to carry that realism to a fault. Real-life conversations are often rambling and halting, but it’s not necessarily a great idea to recreate that experience on the stage. There are some witty lines, which reminded me occasionally of my own student days, but perhaps there’s a little too much reliance on quotes from movies (many of which passed me completely by). The script also suffers the common flaw of telling us the back-story in a lengthy expository lump – a shame, since up to that point I’d enjoyed slowly learning exactly how the two characters came to know each other so well.

There are a few touching reminiscences along the way: the recollection of the moment when they decided to break up is haunting, built around something as simple as a trip to a corner shop to buy cigarettes. Some of the details are well thought-through, such as the way we see them both, separately, cover themselves with body-spray; and there’s a fine piece of visual humour when Cass tries to storm out of the room only to be captured in a heartfelt embrace. A few more scenes like that might have helped break up what’s otherwise a slow-paced production.

But to my mind, the main problem with The Ribbon Tied is just that Dean isn’t at all likeable. There’s a tragedy in his past, and perhaps a hint of an earlier struggle with depression, both things with which I’d ordinarily sympathise. But his present-day behaviour really does mark him out as a thoughtless cad – and Cass drops one or two highly insensitive clangers, as well. All in all, I never found myself particularly caring about the couple’s fate, or rooting for them to overcome their differences by the time the curtain fell.

As Dean, Colin Cuninghame is a little too obviously reciting memorised lines; while Maria Kheyfets as Cass fully inhabits her character, but could usefully work on her vocal projection to be sure her lines are heard at the back of the room. Overall, The Ribbon Tied is a credible piece with a few strong moments. But sadly, it feels like it needs a little more development before it can hold its own among the plethora of work available at the Fringe.

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