It’s nice getting asked to see shows before they go to Edinburgh: you get the drop on the Scotsman critic in finding a gem or a disaster.
Sadly, Ten Pence Short’s new play Hot Air is quite firmly in the latter. Written by and starring (a combination that NEVER goes well in a multi-hander unless a top creator is involved) Laura Cairns, Hot Air advertises itself as a “hard-hitting debut” but in truth it’s about as hard-hitting as a birthday balloon filled with its titular commodity. While director and PR rep Nick Bruckman says that changes may be made before the festival opening, they go up this week and there isn’t time for the full rewrite necessary to turn this into an outright comedy or a thriller.
At this point I’m going to apologise. Not to anybody who worked on the play, for you all deserve what’s about to come, but to Matt Boothman, who reviewed the show for London Theatre Blog. Mr. Boothman managed to get a cast and crew list, which I am shamelessly pulling from his review, as nobody gave me anything like that. Take ten pence for bad press relations there. But yeah. Sorry Matt if I unconsciously pull any of your lines while skimming for names.
So anyways, Ms. Cairns has something of a half-decent concept: two women meet outside a house at the crack of dawn after planning a robbery on a website for house raiders. There’s potential in this idea, but it’s wasted in a script full of throwaway sequences and endless babbling from Alice Dooley’s chattering Elizabeth and Ms. Cairns’ uptight superpunctual Scot Margot. We don’t really find out why the site they met on was organised in the first place (other than the leader supposedly gets nothing from it), Margot’s handle, or any real depth about the characters. And why the song at the end? It’s padding and needs to go - the audience will be grateful for a chance to escape three minutes sooner.
Is it funny that Margot has a fetish for old men’s clothes? For about 10 seconds, and it’s certainly creative, but hardly a plot twist. But we never find out why she feels the need to break into dead peoples’ houses for them rather than, say, order cheap remnants on eBay or raid the charity shops. At least Elizabeth’s silver obsession is practical for a thief. After 15 minutes I wanted to smack down Elizabeth or watch them break down a door, but anybody who expects something to, you know, actually happen will be disappointed: nothing does and the big plot twist (since nobody should waste their time on this script) is that the raid is called off as the occupant isn’t dead but miraculously recovering in hospital.
In the end, this is a first draft which desperately needs a dramaturge to refine it into something interesting with a point and a message. It’s not fun enough to be a pub and a pint kind of play and it’s not serious or smart enough to make you think or engage the audience on a deeper level. But with some good rewrites, it may make a decent Afternoon Play on Radio 4.....eventually.
Where/When: Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Not doing prices, etc.