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Edinburgh Fringe: Mayday Mayday – Pleasance Dome

Writer: Tristan Sturrock

Reviewer: Deborah Klayman

[rating:3.5]

On May Day in 2004, Kneehigh Theatre’s Tristan Sturrock broke his neck falling three meters from a wall in the town of Padstow in Cornwall. Wedged in a small gap, Sturrock could have remained there indefinitely had his pregnant girlfriend and helped by a neighbour – a former paramedic – not found him and raised the alarm. Due to the neighbour’s expert knowledge, Sturrock avoided permanent damage, but after being strapped into an ambulance and ultimately air-lifted to a spinal unit in Truro, found himself paralysed and deciding between two risky options for treatment. Told there was a very real possibility he would never walk again, this is the tale of Sturrock’s accident, rehabilitation, and gratitude to all those who contributed to his recovery.

The very fact that this strongly physical piece is being performed by an actor that underwent this experience is in itself amazing. Sturrock is charismatic and affable, slipping easily from character to character and utilising his many talents to make each subtly different. The staging is superb, with a full length mirror serving as a variety of items including the hospital bed he was confined to – a meaningful choice given that during his treatment he could observe the rest of the world only in the reflection of the one placed above his head. He utilises mime and props to good effect, and the story is clear and engaging.

Although very interesting and at times moving, the piece does feel slightly overlong, or rather there are several elongated pauses that sap the production’s pace. There are video projections of Morris Dancing used to create atmosphere, but they too slow the piece down. That said, Sturrock’s performance and story are captivating, and his physical abilities made only more impressive by knowledge of his ordeal.

Until 27th August.

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2 comments

  1. This was my absolute favourite thing we saw when we were in Edinburgh this year. I disagree with the reviewer here- nothing felt slow- I think it was paced perfectly! His choices of when to play the drama and when to inject humour was spot on. I laughed and cried at this piece. I’d see it again if I could.

  2. Fantastic story-telling and acting. This production rates with the best we’ve seen at the Fringe – in 18 years of visiting. It’s rare to see an actor who can so completely hold an audience in his hand and convert us so rapidly from watching near-tragedy to enjoying humour. Direction and the selection of the set and props. were confident and well-used.
    I shall remember for some time the final impression of a new father fondling a small skull. Poignant!