It’s Fringe time again. One of the best things about living in Edinburgh is I don’t have to make any effort at all to see Fringe shows – they’re just out there, and all I have to do is book the tickets. One of my most favouritest ever Fringe performers is Ben Moor. I saw his first one man play, It Takes Forever If You Go By Inertia in 1993, and I’ve seen every one since then. I think my favourites have been Twelve – any play which explains Bohemian Rhapsody is worth seeing – and Not Everything Is Significant, but I loved all of them. I was less keen on Black Cocktail, but that was written by Jonathan Carroll and didn’t have Ben’s off the wall delightfulness.
It’s really difficult to describe Ben Moor’s plays. They are touching and funny and quirky and sweet and melancholy and joyful and life-affirming and moving and beautiful. They’re set in all sorts of strange universes – competitive tree climbing, tightrope-walking around the world, nuisance phone calls and miniature Pope clones – but essentially they’re about love, hope, relationships and the possibility of second chances. One of the great things about seeing all of the plays, from 1993 onwards (crikey – I was 22 and in my first job after qualifying, in Canterbury, and I think I was spending a week staying with Loredana in Stockbridge), is that I’ve been able to watch Ben develop as a writer and as a performer. He has a wonderful face and he can use his whole body very expressively to convey emotions and actions and whole concepts, but over the years he’s toned that down. He seems to be a much more confident performer now, secure in the quality of the writing and not relying on the funny movements to get a laugh, just using them when they really add something to the show.
So, Each of Us. I liked this play, I enjoyed it very much, but it’s definitely not my favourite. It’s been 4 or 5 years since Ben brought a new play to the Fringe, but somehow something about this one feels rushed. The relationship between the narrator and Radium happens and then ends so quickly that you never get the chance to care about it, and the narrator just comes across as a bit of a numpty, and the two characters who appear later, whose names escape me, never really seem to have much point to them. The play is filled with Ben’s characteristic quirky and romantic touches, and has a joyfully hopeful cliffhanger ending, but something just didn’t click for me. I am pretty sure my employer has at least 5 corporate thwarters in every department though… (And I’m hoping engagement voids don’t become a thing…)
One of the central ideas in Each of Us is the idea that our souls, human souls, really exist in the memories and minds of the people we have met, the people whose lives have interacted. The idea that the memories people have of us ensure that we live on after our death has appeared in other plays of Ben’s – I’m sure it was Not Everything is Significant, but I could be misremembering. It’s a beautiful idea and it was used to great effect in whatever the other play was, but if feels a bit shoehorned-in here. I’m not sure what it was about Each of Us that didn’t really work for me, and a not-as-good-as-the-others Ben Moor play is still a great play, but I think I can only give it 8 out of 10.