Assembly Hall (Venue 35)
03-28 August, 16:25
Chris Woodley wants to live happily ever after, and he isn’t going to let homophobia, bereavement, or teaching Warhorse for the upteenth time get in his way.
At the outset of this autobiographical piece, Chris remarks that, despite being labelled the soft subject, a student has to achieve 97% to receive an A* in GCSE Drama. He remembers telling this to Ryan on one their first dates, the Prince Eric to his Little Mermaid. Perhaps it is this high expectation for success that steers Chris through the trials of new relationships, home ownership, and life.
“The Soft Subject” leans heavily on Chris’ background as a teacher. The audience is told their aims of learning, as well as the structure that the lesson will take. Important moments are told with dramatic techniques such as montage and hot-seating, which Chris knowingly clues the audience in on with a friendly wink. In less experienced hands these devices would have been clunky. But Chris maintains a deft touch throughout the story, always placing the emotional core before the gimmick.
These emotional realities are the most striking elements of “The Soft Subject.” It is difficult to speak of real life experiences as cliched, but where the story feels as if it may devolve into an easier narrative gear, Chris offers a knowing smile to the audience; not this time, this is not a story about cliches. This is a play that revels in the human capacity for love and resilience.
There are certain story points that would have benefited from a longer running time. A recurrent musical beat involving Sister Sledge feels as if it could have had more impact. Yet, I can’t review what could have been, only what I was left with.
In their debut Edinburgh Fringe show, Hyphen Theatre company have demonstrated enormous heart, masterful talent, and daring faith in kindness. “The Soft Subject” has certainly cleared that 97% grade boundary.