Polko – Edinburgh Fringe 2023, Summerhall

Reviewer: Tom Ralphs

Writer: Angus Harrison

Director: Emily Ling Williams

Claiming to be a modern memory play about the places we call home, and the people we leave behind, Polko is one of several plays at the Fringe that sound far more interesting than they turn out to be. A play where three people sit in a car, talk about the past and the present, and nothing much happens would be a more accurate description of what’s on offer here.

The car was given to Joe (Elliot Norman) by his mum’s friend Peter (John Macneill) after Peter was arrested for drunk driving and ceased to have any need for it. It’s the place where he escapes to from his mum’s house when he can’t bear being at home and also the place where he meets his old school friend Emma (Rosie Dwyer) who has returned to the area after losing her job. Cutting between scenes with Joe and Emma and Joe and Peter, the play explores life in a small town and the way people attempt to escape from it or deal with its limitations. Hanging over it all is the mysterious disappearance of the title character, Polko.

All three actors have the naturalism that the script demands and there is a lot of good dialogue in here, as Emma and Joe question ambition and the manipulation of it by employers who refuse to believe that anyone can be content just living, working and passing the time surviving, and Peter and Joe discuss the reasons behind Peter’s ill-fated wedding proposal to Joe’s mother which reveals a loneliness and desperate longing for company that manages to destroy more than it could ever hope to achieve.

However, like the car the play is set in, it never really goes anywhere. Positions are stated, points are made, but nothing comes from any of them. Joe raises the topic of being a shadow person, never really existing, but the tensions between this and the unfulfillable expectations foisted on to Emma and others don’t lead to any great insights. Like Joe and Peter’s lives, the play drifts into nothingness and an insignificant conclusion.

Runs until 27 August 2023 | Image: Contributed

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