Climate theatre couldn’t be of more significance this Fringe, but a stale narrative fails to inspire meaningful calls to action.
Climate theatre couldn’t be of more significance this Edinburgh Fringe, and yet few shows manage to provide the refreshing outlooks needed to inspire meaningful calls to action. Many performances lean into lecturing and scaremongering, or, alternatively, appeal to niceties. The audience is left either alienated or placated. In the case of Crash and Burn, branded as a dark comedy reflecting on the climate crisis and Scottish oil, its stale narrative format fails to pack a punch, its intended comedy never hitting its potential.
It is difficult to achieve good political comedy, and Crash and Burn promises a lot. However, any impact it could have achieved is undermined by its marketing materials, which largely give away the plot and leave little for the show itself to do. We already know that a Scottish Oil tycoon and a billionaire actor are stuck on a private jet together and the play is called ‘Crash and Burn’; things aren’t looking too good. Its website bio even details a ‘suspicious flight attendant’. And while the content of the play could draw us away from the expectations raised by such information, it only leans into them further.
Trapping people with conflicting backgrounds in a confined space for a set amount of time is a classic plot device for sparking interesting debates and unexpected turns, and yet none of the conversations that take place as a result of this circumstance in Crash and Burn reach any complexity or nuance. The Scottish Oil tycoon, Joseph Johnson (Nick Gill) refuses to confess to his part in civilian deaths, actor Amodius Vassano (William Leckie) loses his taste for politics, and most other characters, save Jane Johnson, Joseph’s daughter, powerfully played by Emily Gibson, are merely spare parts, adding very little to the play’s argument or entertainment value. This is a shame, particularly as Lydia Clay-White playing Cynthia is one of the play’s best actors. It would have been nice to see her utilised to her maximum capabilities.
In a particularly strange and unnecessary addition, amidst the chaos of the landing (or crashing?) plane, one character, Margot (Claudia Rosier), remarks “I need to move!”, sparking about 30 seconds of poorly choreographed ballet whilst other characters fail to notice. This directional choice seems to serve no purpose beyond ticking the physical theatre box that everyone wants to achieve this Fringe, a ploy indicative of many of the play’s other empty gestures.
Whilst Crash and Burn has honourable intentions, the lack of subtlety or nuance in the script renders its narrative predictable and its characters unlikeable strangers.