The Grand Scheme of Things @ Underbelly
In The Grand Scheme of Things, a game of truth or dare takes a dark and revelatory turn
Flora Marston and Nic McQuillan each give impassioned performances in this one-hour poetic journey, which puts under the microscope their imagined millennia-old friendship. For, like Aziraphale and Crowley in Good Omens, theirs is no usual relationship: together, they have seen history go by, and perhaps influenced the course it took. Instead of angel and demon, the dichotomy is gendered: woman and man, and the conflict perhaps inherent in such a pairing.
If this set-up were not intriguing enough, the performance employs an intriguing device – behind them on the stage is a screen, upon which the typed words of Flora appear. Her vocal silence could be intended, in Brechtian fashion, to alienate the audience from the performance, or it could stand in for the silencing of women, drowned out by angry, defensive men like Nic. The gender dynamics are fascinating, but the performances are so emotional, it almost feels uncomfortable to watch, as if we the audience members are intruding on an intimate moment between these close friends – or are they friends at all?
The painful ups and downs of friendship is a difficult topic to explore in a one-hour show, and The Grand Scheme of Things is well-suited to the intimately small venue of Underbelly’s Delhi Belly. There are some powerful moments, but it still feels like a work in progress, with some rough edges needing to be smoothed out. At one point, for instance, it’s hard to see one of the performers, who is lying on the floor, if you’re not sitting on the front row. This is a shame, because so much of the power of the production lies in Flora and Nic’s pained facial expressions.
The Grand Scheme of Things, Underbelly Cowgate (Delhi Belly), until 25 Aug, 1.40pm, £10.80