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Nel review at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh – ‘charming and inventive’

Nel at the Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh. Photo: Scratchworks Nel at the Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh. Photo: Scratchworks

The all-female collective Scratchworks Theatre, associate artists at the Bike Shed, together tell a story so small as to be almost invisible, but tell it with such style and invention that you follow them happily.

Nel is a sound effects technician on films, and when she isn’t making footsteps or rainstorms on her tabletop she doesn’t have much of a life. Her boss keeps inviting her to come clubbing, her aunt keeps trying to matchmake, but Nel is content to sit at home with her cat and goldfish.

But then she does decide to try going out, joins a club, meets some people, and even begins to dress stylishly and trade her bicycle for a motorbike. Impulsively she tells someone she’s a producer and agrees to consider the new friend’s film script, and it looks as though her new life will crumble under its own fragility.

With Sian Keen as Nel and Alice Higginson, Hanora Kamen and Laura Doble as everyone else, Nel’s rise and perhaps fall is depicted through a constant flow of whirling movement, inventive sight gags – just putting on a coat is a precisely choreographed operation involving all four sets of hands – and music. Whenever Nel has nothing else to do she provides sound effects for the others, and when she’s engaged they do it for her, and anyone with a free moment will pick up a musical instrument and play.

It is no real spoiler to confirm that Nel ends up modestly happy, and anyway it is the journey rather than the ending, the inventive and endearing process of the telling more than the tale itself that holds and lingers warmly with the audience.

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Charming and inventive staging draws audience in to a small but engaging story