Down and Out in Nottingham and Edinburgh has achieved what I can only describe as ‘the ultimate student show experience’. This is a show for and by students. It’s a show of hitch-hiking, couch-surfing drunken, rambling antics that really couldn’t have come from any other demographic.
Inspired by Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell – and to a lesser extent by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road – Will and Lydia hitch-hiked to Edinburgh and attempted to live for a month by three ‘Orwellian’ rules: not to pay for any accomodation, not to stay with any friends, to never stay in the same place twice, and to always stick together. Then, naturally, they wrote a show about it.
Leaving aside the social experiment that forms its basis, let’s consider the show itself: it’s made up of a mixture of brief sketches, narrative monologues, poetry, readings of book extracts and other oddities. Unlike Rome, it was apparently built in a day, and this shows – it’s unpolished, rambling, and one of the performers (I’m not naming names) has a tendency to mumble.
However, it’s also exuberant, highly eclectic – there’s French spies, bowling, ‘a Mary Poppins bag except with people and a house‘, rants on the abitrary nature of star ratings and strawberry flavoured toothpaste, to give some highlights – and speaks about some fundamental experiences of both student and Edinburgh Festival life. For locals like myself, after three weeks it’s easy to get tired of the Festival and hearing it described so enthusiastically and vividly brings back some of the magic and makes a great way to end the Fringe.
To return to the social dimension of the show, it ends on an honest, personal and sombre note as the difficulties and potential unfortunate implications of two white, middle-class students attempting to experience homelessness. For all the fun they had, both performers were willing to face and admit their own privileged status, providing a saving grace for a show and experiment that could otherwise have become demeaning and voyeuristic.
Though now almost finished its short run, this is a fun little show, and one that’s bound to speak to any students and anyone who’s worked at the Fringe, particularly on its fringes.