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Fossils at the Pleasance, Edinburgh – ‘clever touches’

Fossils at the Pleasance, Edinburgh Fossils at the Pleasance, Edinburgh

Nel Crouch’s play is a rumination on how much mystery – even whimsy – should exist in science.

Its central character is a scientist whose estranged father was a Nessie hunter; she has an understandable disdain for cryptobiology as a result, but is conflicted when an opportunity arises for career advancement. Already feeling tainted by association – her humourless pursuit of ‘serious’ science is played against the more jocular attitude of her colleagues – she must decide whether she can apply her scientific discipline to finishing her father’s work.

Can she unbend enough to take on this unorthodox project? Might she even relax and enjoy it, or is she in danger of figuratively, and literally, drowning in the depths of Loch Ness?

Helen Vinten captures the scientist’s theoretical and personal struggles, generously supported by Adam Farrell and David Ridley as everyone else, and the playwright directs with clever touches that keep alive the tension between serious science and science-as-play, for instance by littering the stage with toy dinosaurs that the characters casually employ as props.

The play moves a little too quickly once the action shifts to Scotland, squeezing in a reunion with an old friend and the discovery of an unsent letter from her father. But it ends, quite deliberately, without resolving any of the personal or professional issues it raises.

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Good performances in this unresolved tale of scientist versus Loch Ness Monster