Deal With the Dragon
C nova, India Buildings Venue 145)
August 5 – 29 (not 15)
Deal with the Dragon opens, as many stripped-back and budget-conscious Fringe shows do, with a black-box stage, a chair, and a solo performer. But this one is different.
Kevin Rolston, who wrote the show which he has also performed at the San Francisco Fringe, immediately doubles the cast by switching seamlessly between his two characters – the younger and more vulnerable artist and assistant Hunter, and his older, sterner German-accented patron Bren.
Their relationship, and how Hunter tries to navigate his way out of his subordinate position and to assert his own voice, is the thread weaving through this complex and dark “but first, sign your name in blood” show.
Rolston switches fluidly not only between these two characters but also between the world of fairy tales and the present day. He make us see dragons, woodcutters, a beautiful baby boy born with a terrible curse, creeping danger all with a turn of his head, a crouch to the floor before snapping us back to the present with a phone call.
Just as young men in the world of fairytales had to compete to survive and overcome inferior positions, so Hunter has the promise of a residency at a museum to spur him on. Enter his competitor for the position, the “skinny queen” Gandy Schwartz. At an AA meeting we learn that the dragons Gandy has attacked – a homeless man whacked on the head with a wine bottle – were nothing compared to ones inside himself. This confession, as Gandy speaks through his tears, is the most moving and touching scene of a piece filled with poignant moments.
Meanwhile, Bren the jealous patron, offers to prepare Hunter for the interview for the job with questions like “how could we hire a nobody like you for the job?”
The piece has many themes – shame, self-destruction and addiction, and whether or not heroes are born or made, to name but a few as well as moments of humour. It’s not always clear what the hell is going, but Rolston and his many stories and characters are always captivating. As I said at the beginning, this solo Fringe show is different…this one is brilliant. Go there.