*Note: The following review was written over two months after the fact due to writer’s block and my being a disaster of a person.*
The premise of this show is original and intriguing; a pill that allows a person to interact with a deceased loved one, recreated from their sensory memories. It may have similarities to existing sci-fi films, books, etc, but I have never seen exactly this concept done before, and its done pretty damn excellently.
I often find the place where many original Fringe shows fall short is in the script and dialogue. Not so here. Elegy for an Echo has, particularly in terms of dialogue, some of the most impressive writing I’ve seen in an original Fringe show. The characters in Chris Townsend’s script converse with natural conversational flow, eloquence where necessary, and insightfulness where it counts. I’m so used to clunky dialogue in Fringe shows that I tend to just overlook it as part of the natural backdrop. This was one of those delightful handful of productions where I was actually taken aback by the strength of the dialogue.
The strength of the script was only made all the clearer by the relentlessly talented cast of actors who performed it. The chemistry of the two leads, Jen (Michaela Gauci) and Connor (Joshua Kerr) was palpable from the off. Their interactions were adorable to watch and so all the more devastating as the reality and gravity of the situation becomes apparent to the audience. Chris Bain, as Mitchell, was a measured and grounded presence with subtle emotive prowess. Sarah Schlesinger was deliciously sinister as the enigmatic figure who supplies Connor with the drug, and also (as I discovered from speaking with the cast afterwards) has an impressive ability alter her native accent for the stage. Perhaps the most emotionally-devastating performance came for Heather Brown as a bereaved mother who utterly destroyed my usually ice-cold heart as her character chased after a toddler only she could see. Each actor immersed themselves in their part entirely and together created a stunning collective performance that echoed (see what I did there?!) for hours afterwards.
The only shortcoming of the piece is occasional issues with pacing. It is another one of these Fringe plays that feels like it has more to say, and it’s characters more room to stretch than an hour time-slot will allow. The consequence is that the plot-progression is occasionally a tad rushed in spots and the conclusion not as neat as it might have been. All that being true, it didn’t especially detract all that dramatically from the overall quality for me. What the play does manage to fit in is powerful, original, and strongly-executed. The directors, Ailis Paterson and Katie Stephen, have very little to regret about the way they’ve done this show, and should take great pride in the result.
It was nothing short of a crime that there were only two people in the audience the day I saw this. I’m given to understand they generally did better most other nights and I’m glad, because a show of this quality deserved to sell out every night. I regret very much it’s taken me this long to write this review up but I’m relieved I finally got round to it. I’ve had a lot of praise for this show sitting inside me that I’ve needed to put on electronic paper. I really hope to see more from this company, Townsend as a writer, and Paterson and Stephen as directors in my future adventures at the Edinburgh Fringe.