Fringe Theatre Reviews: Nightlife

Nightlife and their associated misadventures are the theme for RAZ, Night + Daze and Wasted at the Edinburgh Fringe

Feature by Neil Weaving | 24 Aug 2015

Nights on the town, with their humble beginnings, messy endings, and seemingly boundless capacity for drug- and alcohol-fueled conflict, are a perfect vessel for theatre. These three plays find different ways to explore the nocturnal side of contemporary culture.

On paper, the similarities between veteran Lancashire dramatist Jim Cartwright's new piece RAZ [★★★☆☆] and Philip Stokes' Night + Daze [★★★★☆] are bizarre. Both are essentially monologues from northern-English #lads recounting their chemically-enhanced nights on the town, both keep running into their unattainable loves, both veer into social commentary about the millennial generation, and both occasionally speak in rhyme.

However, RAZ is a play about contemporary nightlife written by a man in his late 50s who has probably never experienced it, and it shows. Though Shane (James Cartwright, Jim's son) drops references to TOWIE, everything else is curiously dated: social media is totally absent, while Shane himself could have walked out of Cartwright's earlier, better Two. This leaves the commentary feeling out of touch and out of date, and when Shane's main personal conflict is the mundane trauma of a vague recent break-up, the narrative is barely interesting enough to carry it.

if you pretend it's set in 1990, it almost works. Cartwright's skill as a writer pushes through in pithy turns of phrase, while the play's technical side is great, with excellent use of sound, lighting, and props to embellish the one-man performance. But when the piece so clearly sets itself up with things to say about contemporary life, the niggling sense that Cartwright is not even talking about the 21st century is a constant distraction.

Night + Daze feels like the play RAZ wants to be. Its principle character gives a hilarious twist on a stereotype: a self-proclaimed lad who claims to only care about drinks, drugs, girls, and football, but has a degree in theology and a tendency to quote Sartre in a Pepé Le Pew-esque French accent. We follow him as he monologues a night out that steadily changes for the worse, but seeing the two back to back reveals how Night + Daze succeeds where RAZ fails.

That difference is primarily one of voice – Sheppey's narration reveals a cultural omnivorousness and social hyper-awareness, two modes of thought that have become trademarks of the post-internet world. Sheppey might not like the internet, as he bemoans what the ubiquity of selfies says about his generation, but, like the rest of us, he is a product of it.

Wasted [★★★★☆] deals with contemporary discussions of sexual consent and it dramatises that familiar material with compassion and nuance. Ollie and Emma, friends of friends, get black-out drunk on a night out and end up going home together. They have sex, though she doesn't remember it – which means she was too far gone to meaningfully assent. Wasted sensitively explores the aftermath of this event, its two-person cast switching effortlessly between a variety of roles.

In an inspired piece of staging, the initial night-club scene takes place with the audience crowded onto the stage, the actors pushing through the mass of people in a manner that will be familiar to anyone who took a night out of their Fringe schedule to make the trip to Hive.

RAZ, Assembly George Square Studios, 'til Aug 31 (not 24), £12.50/£11.50

Night + Daze, Underbelly Cowgate, 'til Aug 30, £12.00/£11.00

Wasted, Gilded Balloon, 'til Aug 31, 12:15, £10.00/£8.50