It’s a long time since I have been quite so enthralled by a piece of theatre with only one central character on stage. But enthralled I was by this performance – and with its minimalistic set of just two piles of books, a chair and a toaster, it succeeded where other shows have so often failed.
Bruce, a secretly soft-hearted Geordie, tells his story to us with to familiarity of old friends. His monologue relates to a darker side to his life: we’re given a lesson in how easy and anonymous it can be to buy drugs online. The title refers to one notorious website, which in turn is a nod to the Silk Route, along which spices and other drugs were transported once upon a time. But in parallel with this tale Bruce lets us into his easy relationship with his Nan, and his more problematic unrequited love for a girl who, in truth, is way out of his league.
We are drawn in as the story weaves cleverly backwards and forwards, with actor James Baxter playing the parts of every character mentioned. His transition from one to another is seamless, and his physicality riveting, whether he’s playing his elderly and insightful Nan or a bouncer with a side-line in musical theatre. He is instantly able to embody all the characteristics needed: with just a toss of the head and a sniff, we’re transported to the seedy world of cocaine and night clubs.
For me the real love affair in the story lay in fact between Bruce and his Nan. Playing both parts, I was moved by Baxter’s skill and sensitivity in the delivery of these interactions. They were quite beautiful to witness, and Bruce’s obvious love and care for his Nan was totally believable.
This is theatre at its very best. The writing by Alex Oates is smart, humorous and in places powerfully touching, and it truly was so good that I would cheerfully click the refresh button and start watching it all over again. If you are looking for a powerful and entertaining play this Fringe, then search no further.