A trickle of blood stains Sam’s face as she fades back into consciousness, her vehicle a steaming mess, a few seconds or minutes of headache-fuzzed recollection stretching to seem much longer as she tries to piece together what has happened. You are one of six silent observers, crammed together, close enough to count the chips in the protagonist’s nail varnish.
Wrecked is a new one-woman play from company Fever Dream and writer-director Jonathon Carr. It’s situated in one of the Fringe’s fringier venues, a “crashed” seven-seater car round the back of George Square Gardens. Because, well, why not. The lead and only physically present character, Sam (Kristy Bruce), through outer inner monologue and ferreting-round-the-glove-box, wanders us through fittingly nebulous recollections linking the car crash of her life to the one we’re currently sat in.
Foiled windows expand the space and soften the claustrophobia, and multiple dashboard mirrors serve to expand the rope-lit cabin: subtle and effective additions to a pre-packaged stage. Bruce gives a deeply engaging performance, amplified by her one-to-two foot proximity to your face, buoyed by her at-times manic alternations between the panic of the present and the gradually dissolving excitement of her earlier recollections, which in turn converge to the same disarray as the mess of now. Occasional recorded conversations add to the element of the surreal, Sam returning briefly to her unconscious state. At the same time they add a touchstone of perspective to the confusions of the main character and a break from the intensity of the exposition.
That said, it’s difficult to feel completely sympathetic for Sam, the reality of whose supposedly spiralling life doesn’t seem as bad as the way she paints it to be. Of course, nothing’s ever as bad as we think it is when we’re in it, but I still feel the gravity behind her motivation for escapism could be explored more. The auxiliary characters could be afforded more dimension – and the story is occasionally difficult to follow in its disjointedness, a reflection of the protagonist’s head trauma and the disorienting setting.
Would the play stand in its own right if performed in a more conventional venue? I’m not sure. I don’t think it’s a particularly relevant question though, like asking whether Nutella would taste as good if eaten from a baked-bean tin. The play’s effectiveness is firmly entangled with its implementation; it is a small story in a small space, a tale to serve its setting.
With four shows and a mere twenty-four seats available each day, this is a hot ticket, and rightly so. While there’s only so far a play-in-a-car can go, Wrecked is an effective treatment of its central premise, and a highly recommended experience.