It was a smallish audience on the day I attended this show, and what a huge mistake was being made by those wandering the Grassmarket outside. Rooster Theatre Company has brought a hilarious, delightful performance to the Fringe; two homeless men decide to write articles for a daily newspaper, leading to funny takes on what people want to read, what the current buzzwords might be, and what the two men's experiences with homelessness are.
The stage was striking – full of torn-up newspapers, empty cartons and rubbish bags. You could almost smell filth as you walked into the room. Sam de Souza plays the banjo and Alexander John reads the newspaper, as they discuss an article about a man who makes £300 a week begging and pretending to be homeless. From there, the narrative progresses quickly, as the duo decide to become columnists.
Their dialogue is often humorous – I enjoyed the fun they make of the news people like to read, including royal babies – but there is a strong underlying sense of irony too. The script includes some touching lines about the utter despondence of being cold, hungry, and sleeping on the streets. The power of the show is that it makes it easy to imagine, within the space of 60-odd minutes, how soul-destroying it must be to live a life where people pass without acknowledging you every day.
There are topics here which it's important to think about: how common an occurrence begging has become, and how little money they make. I was quite moved when one of them naively speaks of his dream, to buy a house with the money he will make from the newspaper. But all of this is fed under the garb of dark humour, and incidents that (in this case literally) beggar belief.
The audience is cast as the passers-by, and characters approach to borrow a pen, harangue us for money, or ask about our opinions on the pieces they wrote. Since the house wasn't full, I was involved several times, and I have to say it was slightly intimidating being put in the spotlight (actual torchlight shone in face). But it's interesting to be included within the storytelling, and I was impressed by the fact the actors retained their composure while delivering highly humorous lines close-up and across the fourth wall.
So this is a show to watch, for its mix of comedy, a grave issue brought to light, great acting and compelling setting. A thoroughly enjoyable performance from the duo!