Fable is, as the title suggests, a fairy-story for our times; a parable about leaving the rat-race behind, to seek a simpler life and follow a star. It's the tale of a young woman, known only as J – who ekes out a stressful existence in a big and soulless city, despite the dangers posed by her congenitally weakened heart. When a crisis invades her life, she makes a spontaneous, impetuous choice: to leave her home and travel to the wild coast of Scotland, to meet a man she knows only from dating online.
That man's name is Blair, and at first he seems a stereotype, a cuddly bear with a heart of gold who happily lives an uncomplicated life. But he has a sharp turn in sardonic humour – and as J gets to know him, we learn that he has his own passions too. Fable highlights just how much separates this modern-day woodsman from the city-dwelling woman, but it also points out how similar they are: how the path to fulfilment, though bedevilled by frustrations, lies in the chase of a dream.
A deliberately lo-fi production, Fable makes excellent use of an old-fashioned slide projector both to set the scene and to change our perspective. J's dream is to become an astronaut, and much is made of how the world we all inhabit is inconceivably tiny speck amidst the vastness of the universe. Both actors work hard to set their audience at ease; as J, Veronica Hare is particularly welcoming during her opening monologue, delivered with brightness and plentiful eye contact and accompanied by upbeat music in the background.
The folk-inspired score, in fact, is a highlight of the show. Created live by Jim Harbourne, who also plays Blair, it's pleasingly unobtrusive yet impossible to ignore. Thanks his loop pedal – surely the most ubiquitous gizmo of this year's Fringe – Harbourne lays down guitar riffs, percussion beats and soulful vocals, lending the whole production a warm, homely, sociable feel. Fable is designed to tour pubs and village halls, and I can easily see how much I'd enjoy it with a few mates beside me and a few beers inside.
But the ending is… well, peculiar, and to my mind diminishes the charmingly believable story which has come before. When they've worked so hard to build characters you can identify with and relate to, my brain rebels against having one of those characters do something quite literally unbelievable. The recurring injunction to put down our phones grated on me, too; it's is already a theatrical cliché, and I feel sure playwright Alexander Wright has much subtler, more insightful things to say.
All in all though, Fable is a beautiful show: not because it's visually stunning (because it quite deliberately isn't), but in the sense of showing us something wonderful within our hearts. There's rapport between the actors as well as with the audience, and the message, though a simple one, feels profound. A true fusion of story, performance and music, Fable is fabulous indeed.