by Tom Basden
31 July – 28 August 2013
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Gus – Mathew Baynton
Erin – Bebe Cave
Ian – Daniel Rigby
Marie – Katy Wix
Produced by The Invisible Dot
Written by Tom Basden
Director – Phillip Breen
Designer – Rhys Jarman
Lighting Designer – Emma Chapman
Sound Designer – Andrea J Cox
Associate Director – Alexander Lass
by Alice Jones
There's an invigorating flair and ambition to Holes, and not just because it begins with a walk along a blustery beach. Audiences are bused out of town to a "secret seaside location", where, following that bracing stroll, they end up seated around a super-sized sandpit, lit by a huge, throbbing orange sun like something out of Tate's Turbine Hall.
Tom Basden's play begins in the immediate aftermath of a plane crash on a faraway tropical island. There are only four survivors - three of them colleagues from DBS (Davidson Business Solutions) on their way to a conference and one unfortunate teenage girl. It's the classic Lost/ Lord of the Flies scenario but the comedy, and later drama, comes from the collision of specifically 21st-century office life with atavistic island survival. Modern man, with his iPads and and HR speak, is not only useless it turns out, he has a chasm in his soul.
That Basden is one of the UK's most talented young comedy writers (his credits include Fresh Meat, Plebs and the 2009 Fringe smash, Party) is clear. His script speeds along, crammed with delicious details about aeroplane chicken chasseur, Duty Free, corporate bonding and Coldplay. If ultimately it takes on a little too much - losing its way in meditations on the nature of Englishness and the essence of personality - there are also lines so lovely you find yourself smiling at them hours later.
The Invisible Dot has gathered perhaps the finest quartet of comic actors on the Fringe, who make the journey out of town more than worthwhile. Daniel Rigby, Bafta-winning star of Eric and Ernie and One Man, Two Guvnors steals the show as Brent-esque self-nominated leader, Ian. While Katy Wix is hilarious as HR manager Marie, rifling through the suitcases of the dead for designer goods and staggering around the sand in her Louboutin booty. They are ably supported by man-on-the-edge Mathew Baynton (James Corden's partner in the upcoming sitcom The Wrong Mans) and fragile Bebe Cave (last seen playing young Elizabeth to Helen Mirren's older Queen in The Audience).
Director Phillip Breen cooks up a fervid atmosphere and a whole island off-stage with some neat flourishes, including a makeshift ocean. It needs a little fine tuning, but Holes has all the makings of a future tragicomic hit.
A Younger Theatre
by Lauren Mooney
Some men, as that guy in Batman once said, just want to watch the world burn; others are less keen to get in on the burning but would love to be in charge of the resultant admin. Ian is one such man.
After their plane goes down somewhere between London and Sydney, the sole survivors, three conference organisers and a teenager, pick through the plane food and the fruit growing in the jungle of their desert island, and try to decide what to do while they wait to be rescued. But when they hear a horrifying M’aidez call over the plane’s radio, they begin to worry that no-one is coming, because there is nobody left to come.
Daniel Rigby is perfectly pitched as Ian, an insignificant man back at home who feels able, here, to take charge, to become the real man he has always known in his heart he could be. He is not-so-secretly thrilled at the prospect of starting a new life on the island – and if they’re faced with the prospect simply because him, two work colleagues he barely knows and a teenage girl he’s never met before are all that’s left of humanity, so be it.
Tom Basden’s script is unbelievably fast-paced and relentlessly funny, with the jokes coming thick and fast, especially from Rigby and Katy Wix’s excellent, shallow Marie. Marie is Head of HR and she works very hard, so really this is a great opportunity for her to get the beach holiday she both needs and deserves. It’ll all be fine as long as she doesn’t get sunburned – which she is at risk of, actually, because she does have ginger cousins.
All four performers get a share of the laughs, but the cast of Holes is by necessity split between the grotesques and more sympathetic characters; Matthew Baynton as Gus, concerned for his children back at home, and Bebe Cave as Erin, who lost her family in the crash, give Holes its emotional heart.
Staged in the round and in the middle of nowhere (coaches collect groups of people from the Assembly George Square and ship them out to a secret location), this is a great play with a few attached complexities that feel mostly unnecessary. It’s a little hard to imagine there were no more central venues in which Holes could, with some fiddling and ingenuity, be staged, plus, the vastness of the actual venue and the in-the-round staging make it hard sometimes to catch the quick-firing dialogue, nailed down perfectly by director Phillip Breen.
Still, this staging makes them feel oppressively walled-in, stuck with each other, further underlined by the small stage they occupy on what must be a relatively vast island. There’s also something nice about being able to see people opposite, peering at you even as the four survivors discuss their assumed status as the last humans alive; it drives home the enormity of this claim while also making them look just a little ridiculous. Excusable flaws, then – not least because this has to be one of the funniest pieces of theatre at this year’s Fringe. Basden’s excellent script and the remarkable comic timing of the cast make Holes more than worth the trip.
by Hannah Clapham-Clark
There comes a point in the Fringe when you can’t physically stand to digest another crêpe and the thought of being penned into yet another alcohol filled patch of land fills your with momentary dread. I would, then, very much recommend Holes as the perfect remedy to Fringe fatigue.
Sitting in a coach, having numerous school trip flashbacks, whilst watching the seaside roll by is, by any standard, a lovely way to spend an afternoon. And you get to see a bright, interesting play as well? Bargain!
A catastrophic plane crash has occurred with only four survivors in tact, with three of whom are work colleagues being left stranded with a sixteen year old who lost her parents in the tragedy. After a brief panic, it’s assumed that the whole world has been destroyed and things start getting very tetchy after the last chicken chasseur has been eaten.
Admittedly, it doesn’t sound like a great start to a comedy but within seconds we are laughing due to Tom Basden’s pithy and ruthlessly sharp dialogue. Both broad and subtle, the humour pulls the play along with a pace that is impressive for what could have been a fairly stationary performance.
Each character is accurate and intricate, perfectly depicting the people we all love to hate at work or the family members we get inexplicably annoyed at; From the vapid Marie (Katy Wix), constantly seeking male attention, to Gus (Matthew Baynton), a frustrated loose cannon on the brink of losing his faculties, with Bebe Cave’s portrayal of teenage fragility and misguided obedience finally dismantling the dynamics of this very volatile group.
The play is, however, very much a vehicle to display the sheer brilliance of Daniel Rigby, and rightly so. Seeing the crisis as an opportunity to prove his masculinity and worth, Ian begins to build dams and repopulate the world, one person at a time. He is the archetypal fool, using bravado instead of wits as a means of survival and Rigby excels in depicting this blind confidence and sad insignificance.
As a fascinating, inventive and beautifully performed production, Holes succeeds in epitomising the Fringe’s ability to surprise and push the normal expectation of theatre.
Katy Wix, Mathew Baynton, Daniel Rigby, Bebe Cave.
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