In a characteristically make-shift Fringe venue, battling against cheers from outside and rattling seating, I settle down to watch ‘Replay’. First seen in Oxford, it is now embarking upon a run of 26 performances at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The play follows Freya, a teacher who has developed feelings towards one of her piano students, James, after the suicide of his sister. It is a twist upon the normal story of a student-teacher relationship as we are never told the exact extent of the relationship, so that its full nature remains ambiguous. Because it is Freya’s confession, we continually face the problem of an unreliable narrator, seeing the situation through her eyes only as she tries to justify her feelings. This gives us a unique perspective into the mind of Freya, and her rationalities behind her actions, as she tries to persuade her audience that she was only trying to help by sharing James’ grief for his deceased sister. It questions our strict morality upon such a topic, leaving the audience to decide whose side they are on.
A very strong chorus surround Freya throughout the play. They are what hold the play together, sometimes a collection of disembodied voices, at other times well-rounded characters in their own right, creating a sense of fluidity. The use of flowing, if rather eerie, piano music throughout, furthers this fluidity, uniting the piece.
It is a very ambitious play, approaching a controversial yet sometimes clichéd subject and attempting to portray it in a new light. However this level of ambition which combines several different ideas into one relatively short play is slightly to its detriment at times as it tries to do too much. Furthermore, Freya’s interiority means that sometimes the play feels lost, meandering through the world of Freya’s head. The ambiguity, though extremely effective at times, is sometimes overwhelming and leads to a lack of clarity. In these moments it is the chorus’ presence which helps to ground the ambiguous nature of the play.
‘Replay’ is a strong, though disquieting, piece of new writing, a drama which forces its audience to stop and think, even amidst the non-stop busyness of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
REPLAY runs from 31st July to 25th August at C Cubed in Edinburgh