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Mr Incredible review at Underbelly, Edinburgh – ‘Subtle but underpowered at times’

Alistair Donegan in Mr Incredible Alistair Donegan in Mr Incredible. Photo: Longsight Theatre

Camilla Whitehill’s Where Do Little Birds Go? was one of the most distinctive bits of new writing of last year’s fringe. Set in the 1960s, in the London of the Krays, and inspired by true events, it was an account of an ordeal that in less capable hands could have been unbearably grim, but Whitehill handled it with care and skill and the play has earned a well-deserved transfer to the Old Red Lion in London in the autumn.

Her new play Mr Incredible is another dramatic monologue but this time it has a contemporary setting and is told from a man’s point of view. Speaking directly to the audience on a set of perspex screens, Adam describes his relationship with his former girlfriend Holly. He tells us how things began between them and outlines the goals he has set himself in life. He has quite fixed ideas about where he should be and the kind of girlfriend he should have. He is not great at empathy. He’s confident he can change the things about Holly that bother him: her politics, her opinions, her ambitions. He thinks he can make her comply.

Mr Incredible is a play about learned behaviours, entitlement, control and consent. It’s also a study of generations, of how an age gap of five years can be a chasm at a time where everything feels a little less secure than it once was.

Alistair Donegan’s Adam veers from being a recognisable every-guy to something more unpleasant. He’s over confident and prone to bursts of anger but he’s not a beast and the play doesn’t paint him as such. It’s subtler than that. Sarah Meadows’ production feels a bit underpowered at times and the play heads towards a destination that feels inevitable. It’s not as commanding a piece as Little Birds and is at its most intelligent and unsettling when dealing in ambiguities, in shades of grey and shifting social pressures.

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Unsettling dramatic monologue about entitlement and control