City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Oh, The Humanity and Other Good Intentions Review

By Kenneth Scott - Posted on 17 August 2012

Chairs apart
Show details
Northern Stage in Association with Soho Theatre
Running time: 
Erica Whyman (director), Will Eno (writer), Andrew Stephenson (designer), Kevin Tweedy (lighting designer), Leif Jordansson (composition).
Tony Bell, Lucy Ellinson, John Kirk.

This is not, as it might appear a production about the Hindenburg disaster, but rather five short plays looking at life through the eyes of people who seem ill equipped to deal with it.

Tragicomic and occasionally absurd, it features a parade of somewhat neurotic characters who start to tell us something but end up expressing more about hopes, fears and uncertainties; both theirs and ours.

First up, blinking into a barrage of press cameras is a sports coach trying to justify his team’s losses. His positive spin of a building year and a new beginning fails to cover that he has a poetic soul and that the depth of his losses and sorrow extend not only into the season but also into his personal life.

In “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rain”, we view a couple as they make separate but overlapping dating videos that never quite connect. In imparting what seems like inconsequential detail they bare their souls. He “enjoys not travelling”; she has been described “as the girl next door – by the neighbours”. As the list becomes increasingly absurd and they become progressively prescriptive in what they imagine as their future life with a partner, their isolation grows.

“Enter the Spokeswoman, Gently” as she tries to give information on the loss of Country Air flight 514. Unfortunately her background in the hospitality industry has not prepared her to defend the airline’s record of “somewhat excellence”, and there’s a risk that her attempts to deliver comfort to the grieving relatives will crash and burn.

The audience are put in focus for the “Bully Photograph”, a recreation of an image from the Mexican War of Independence.  It’s a record of our souls more than our appearance as we are urged to ponder the unknown and urged to be more mortal; as much as we can bear.

The final play “Oh, the Humanity” sees a couple going to a christening or a funeral. Caught between life and death and struggling in a busy world they drop theatrical pretence and look at the self-delusion that allows us to function.

The plays sit together a little uneasily but there are excellent performances. The simple stage set gives it a talk show look and indeed it’s more about words than actions. Each section has the feel of a finely crafted short story. This is a production which, like life, will probably mean different things to different people but in its tender advocacy to stop and smell the roses it represents existentialism without the angst.

Show Times: Runs to 25 August 2012 (not 21); 6.40pm

Ticket Prices: £14 (£10)