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Review: Bacon at Summerhall - Ed Fringe

Review by Lucy Holz


It’s the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2023. Lining up outside a lecture theatre, the audience members can hear actors completing their final warmups. It’s perhaps not a venue you expect to see an exceptional piece of theatre. But once we arrive inside the theatre is packed. Sold out and sold out for a reason. The actors start onstage, sitting on either end of a giant seesaw.


The play begins with direct address and moves at a cracking pace from start to finish. This show deftly covers the themes of poverty, abuse and homophobia through the lens of a couple of year tens with vastly different upbringings. This is an intense exploration into the role society plays in toxic masculinity and the destruction that follows.


Following the budding friendship between hardcore bully Darren (William Robinson) and bumbling newbie Mark (Corey Montague-Sholay), Bacon draws upon classic stereotypes and is highly reminiscent of characters from The Inbetweeners. Using these tropes to set the scene for an unlikely friendship, we soon see the two boys realise they are both misfits and have begun to care about each other deeply.


Playwright Sophie Swithinbank uses well-known characterisations to draw the audience close, before twisting the story out of familiar territory and into the unknown. I often think I know where the plot is going but am quickly reminded this is not a joyful coming of age story.


While the ending does lack clarity and perhaps could have been stronger, it is completely unexpected and signifies how Swithinbank keeps her audience on their toes throughout.


Excellent set design by Natalie Johnson is minimalistic but gives the actors and director Matthew Iliffe plenty to work with. Use of the seesaw emphasises the change in power dynamics as the story progresses and keeps the two hander visually engaging throughout.


Lighting by Ryan Joseph Stafford and sound by MWEN complement the script perfectly, clearly conveying physical time and space and the characters emotional state.


However, the stars of this show are undoubtedly the actors. The interplay between Montague-Sholay and Robinson is stunning to watch and the opposing characters make for a fierce and riveting dynamic. Both adopt a strong physicality, showcasing different elements of personality and creating dynamism on the tiny stage.


Unsurprisingly, when this play debuted last year at Finborough Theatre it was showered with accolades, with both actors earning Best Performance in a Play at the Off West End Theatre Awards.


It would be easy for the actors to stray into shouting and one note anger during this highly volatile story, but instead they give perfectly nuanced performances. Despite the abuse that occurs, it’s hard not to sympathise with both characters in this twisted story. This play has been expertly cast by Iliffe and his excellent use of space makes this the perfect festival show.


A complex exploration of hard hitting issues, this play completely hits the mark. Fierce, exciting and completely unexpected, Bacon is a must see show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Image Supplied

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