Sitting sipping a latte in the genteel surroundings of the Summerhall courtyard, I'm buttonholed to go to a production called We Are Not Here. "If you like 'The Shit', you'll like this", I'm forewarned. Is that really a recommendation, I ponder?
It turns out that serendipity is on my side. The production is yet another piece of absurdism, but with something quite deep and dark festering inside the fun and froth. Rather too overt allusions to Becket and Godot are recurrent references in this improvised play, which nevertheless has a serious foundation as it explores the blurred boundaries between what is real and unreal, what is fact and fiction.
Played con gusto by four energetic Italian actors with clever use of a dustbin as the central prop containing its own box of tricks, it still takes me, and the rest of the audience I suspect, some time to get into the spirit of their absurd reality (or is it unreality?). But patience is rewarded as some sort of philosophical order emerges within the chaos. It is sometimes difficult to follow the thread, scenes becoming stepping stones leaving one wondering where it is all leading. An open door seems to be the destination, but despite their collective yearning to find out what lies beyond, there is nothing. They remain trapped in their own reality.
Perhaps the most surreal scene - and for me perversely the highlight of the show - was a bravissimo rendition of the Frank Sinatra song, That's Life, by actress Valentina Scuderi, dressed as a man, performing a bodily function on the loo (the all purpose dustbin). Not only brilliantly acted, but sung with a gravelly voice that belongs in cabaret.
The group, Babygang, was formed in Milan nearly 10 years ago. We Are Not Here, which somehow sounds more apt in the original Italian - Noi Non Siamo Qui - is a project devised (along with all the actors who are also co-founders of the company) by Spanish director, Carolina de Calle Casanova, who turns out to have been the persuasive buttonholer in the courtyard. I'm rather glad they were there.