PQA Venues – Riddle’s Court
16:30 (ends 25th August)
🌟🌟🌟 (Three Star)
If you have never heard of James Boswell, well this is the play for you because by the end you will still not know that much about him except that he was a Scottish aristocrat, a womanizer, didn’t know what to do with his life and wrote something about Samuel Johnson. Intertwined with his narrative is the story of an American student who is researching Johnson and along the way falls in love with Boswell’s writing. It’s basically half the regurgitated storyline of uptight girl becomes more fun and half 18th century lads on tour.
Too much time was spent on the storyline with the American student which meant that if you are looking for a play about Scottish history (which all of the marketing suggests that it is), you will be relatively disappointed. Neither storyline was particularly developed and most of the scenes involving the American student were incredibly long, slow and unnecessary. The character was distracting and did nothing to further the plot. It seemed as if the writer was trying to include a message of, ‘do what you love regardless of money,’ but so many different works have that message and there isn’t anything new or exciting to say about it. It would have been better time spent to treat it as a solely historical play focusing on the Boswell storyline and educating people about who the man was and why he is significant, because that didn’t really come across even though he is the titular character.
It seems that every Fringe show that I come across is filled with one- liners, and this was no different. There were some comedic moments such as when Johnson tried to communicate with a landlady and didn’t understand what she was saying to him: the stereotypical English tourist. It was those little moments that made the play better because at times it was monotonous. The characters of Boswell and Johnson were interesting to watch, but they failed to be the two – dimensional characters that the historical figures that they were based on were, probably because of the lack of time they had to develop.
It was an average play. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t entirely bad either. It was just dull at times and perhaps with some tightening up of the script it has the potential to be a lot better. It is a very American take on Scottish history, but that’s not necessarily bad. It’s just another way of looking at things which, in the end, is what the Fringe and history are about.
Katerina Partolina Schwartz (Twitter: @katpschwartz)