The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank (Assembly Roxy, 7 – 31 Aug : 17.35 : 55mins)

“A potential creative masterpiece whose shortcomings locked it into simply being “alright””

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars

I’m a firm believer that the human mind is one of the most complicated and amazing pieces of organic engineering the world has ever seen. Therefore, a witty, entertaining show exploring its contents is like my personal holy grail; and whilst I nearly found it in The Very Grey Matter of Edward Blank, it fell excruciatingly short of something which could have been incredible.

The show tells the story of its titular, reclusive protagonist as he struggles with his own ill mind in a desperate attempt to identify a voice on an old tape; both helped and hindered by his inner voices, who clown and joke their way through his surprisingly dark existence. A nuanced and creative genius, Blank’s goal takes him into the often nonsensical depths of his own sick psyche, and his inner voices are all along for the ride.

To start with, members of the team whose job relies on hardly noticing their work: a huge congratulations to the set and team, who succeeded in creating an on-stage apartment which was not only visually pleasing, but also functioned very cleverly in some of the most simple yet effective visual trickery I’ve seen in a long time. And similar kudos must go to the costume and makeup which went into the creation of the simultaneously ghoulish and comic “Mister Boo-bag” (whose mime work was worth every second).

With regards to the acting talent on show, Edward Blank’s mad, clowning inner characters all had flashes of utter comic genius, and showed a cohesion in their onstage chemistry which many theatre companies could take lessons from. And especial praise must be given to Sam Redway, who played the eponymous Edward, for managing to play an unstable character who remained endearing, charming and dynamic without fail.

However, this was a show which was constantly leaving me wanting to see more, and unfortunately not in a good way. I often wanted to see more energy and dynamism from most of the inner voices, who were always tantalising close to having the physicality and force to really hammer their characters home, but only occasionally hit the target. And perhaps it was a matter of the (admittedly, very witty) writing, or some fault of the occasional silences or unintended moments of stillness, but the show seemed to have a problem maintaining it’s dramatic momentum. And, even worse, the show ended abruptly with a whimper rather than a bang. I was left feeling like I’d gotten to the last glorious bites of a meal, only to have it slapped out of my hand. Had this show’s world been able to maintain itself with the extra needed force, I would have been hooked. But as it stood, I couldn’t quite get into it.

Would I see Edward Blank again? With a few tweaks, gladly. But despite strong performances and clever writing, the show’s shortcomings often ripped me out of what could have been an utterly engrossing story – and even more frustratingly, it’s weaknesses felt just a draft away from being solved. This was a potential creative masterpiece whose shortcomings locked it into simply being “alright”.

If this returns to Fringe in any altered form, I’ll be the first in line – but until then, Edward Blank left me feeling a little grey.

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer:Jacob Close (Seen 7 August)

Visit the Assembly Roxy  archive.