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The Journey review at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh – ‘smart deconstruction of theatrical power play’

Will Brown and Phoebe Sparrow in The Journey at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh. Photo: Elly White
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For a moment, it seems like Stuart Laws’ The Journey might be the worst thing ever – a lame, loosely structured romcom set in space, written by and starring an egotistical arsehole, with a criminally underwritten female character.

But then, it shows itself to be quite a lot cleverer than that. Spoiler alert, but about two-thirds of the way through Phoebe Ladenburg’s production, the theatrical conceit collapses. The actor playing the female character snaps, wakes up to her co-star’s toxicity, and calls him out in front of the audience. He responds, vitriolically and violently.

It is really smart stuff, elegantly exposing the hypocrisy of a lot of self-proclaimed male feminists and asking powerful questions about power and presentation in drama, and in fringe theatre in particular. Will Brown and Phoebe Sparrow are great, both as irritatingly bad actors, then as warring colleagues once everything falls apart.

However, one moment, when Brown physically lashes out at Sparrow, takes things too far. It villainises him too much, and so lets a lot of men watching off the hook: “At least I’m not like that.” It’s a powerful, provocative piece as it is, and would be even more so with that misstep excised.

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Smart, deconstructive play exploring power and presentation in drama from comedian Stuart Laws