views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Tristan Bates Theatre
1st August 2018


Publicity photo for Euan

Photography provided by ChewBoy Productions

When I was younger, I went to a school with a boy called Euan. He was tall, so very tall, maybe as tall as a skyscraper. Do you like skyscrapers? Have you you ever been up to the Sky Garden? It's really cool. Bow ties are cool. Hang on, what was I talking about? Ah, yes. Euan. This play by newcomer ChewDog Productions is less of a script with a clearly defined story arc and more of a madcap game of word association where new ideas are flung at you so quickly that you lose track of the question you were hoping someone else would answer, because along comes another unexpected fact that sparks a germ of a brand new question that distracts you. What was the last one you were mulling over, again? It's a disarming technique, but one which is wonderfully effective. It becomes too hard to keep up with the plot or pick holes in any discrepancies: we're lost in a Euan-less world, trying to track down where he is and why he is so important.

At first, we wonder if the characters of X (Georgie Bailey), Y (George Craig) and Z (Hal Darling) are deliberately lacking traditional names in order to strip them of any assumed personalities. I mean, call a character Mike, and I immediately think of all the lovely, dependable, good-in-a-crisis Mikes that I know. Never met a Mike I didn't like. X? I have no preconceptions there; I don't know anyone called X. However, listen closely and you'll occasionally hear one of the characters slip up and call one of the others by a more normal name, so we know they weren't christened X, Y and Z. They've all changed their names. Were they forced to? Did they choose to? Every time we learn any small detail, it only adds a new layer of bewilderment rather than serves as a helpful clue.

All three performers have come up with the story, such as it is, with Bailey taking ownership for collating all those ridiculous ideas and committing them to paper. The reluctant script is deliberately obtuse, yet wildly funny and surely is at least part-inspired by Beckett. There's no patiently waiting for Euan though - it's more a case of frantically searching for him, tearing up the set in a desperate attempt to track him down. The rapid pace of this play puts pressure on the actors to deliver some very verbose chunks of dialogue in a fraction of the time it would take any normal person to speak, but they never once fluff their lines. Impressive, given how many words there are and how little any of them are related to each other - it's a real test of memory.

The difficulty of fringe shows is that scheduling them back-to-back means you need to rely on the show beforehand sticking to some tight timings in order for your show to get in, set up and roll on time. Whilst it's not unusual for a show to overrun (Camden is more forgiving of this than Edinburgh), being offered a glossy programme with a Euan word search in it is perhaps less common. I confess, I became distracted by the question of whether I had in fact booked myself into see a musical (the programme looks like it could be a record cover) that I didn't manage to find Euan before the three actors took over the hunt. Ah, foreshadowing: so clear with the benefit of hindsight.

Downright bewildering, but also bloody brilliant. Most companies making their London debut don't have the courage to introduce themselves with something as quirky as this. If you find Euan, let us know. We hear he's a tricky one to pin down.

Euan opened on 30th July and runs until 4th August 2018 at the Tristan Bates Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Leicester Square (Piccadilly, Northern)

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