Everyone knows about the “little people bit” in Gulliver’s Travels – one of literature’s most famous 18th-century classics. But not everyone remembers the “other bits”. This is the premise that Dan Coleman, for Dawn State, uses to bring Jonathan Swift’s novel to life. The adventures of Gulliver become a backdrop for a simple tale of husband and wife Lem and Lil, who have lost the happiness and strength from their marriage.
Lil is played by Cathy Conneff, and she delivers a standout performance as a wife who tries everything she can to bring her husband back from the depths of his own mind. In setting up context and chatting away to the “yahoo” audience, she is firmly in her character’s shoes, delicately balancing hope and despair in a trembling voice. Jack Bence is an equally good Lem, and brings the travels of Swift’s protagonist to life – but only the “interesting bits”, as prompted by Lil.
There are minimal props on stage, and the ones that are present are well utilised to demonstrate movement and action. The depth of this Cowgate venue is damp and muggy, lending itself rather well to this production I have to say, leading to a good overall effect in bringing this classic to life.
However, there is little that parallels the modern-day lives of Lil and Lem in Swift’s story of Gulliver. This problem is partly solved by suggesting that as part of Lem’s distancing himself from his wife, he is obsessed by the book. But really, it could have been any book. Not enough is brought out to answer the question – why Gulliver’s Travels?
In the writing too, the reconciliation happens rather quickly, and it feels that it has been added hastily to the end; it doesn't sit within Gulliver’s story. But if you have read the book, this show will make you want to go and re-read it. And if you haven’t – well, here’s your chance to watch some fine actors bring it to life.