Trying It On (3 stars)

This article is from 2019

Trying It On

credit: Lara Cappelli

Show musing on selling out or staying relevant

Playwright and performer David Edgar's show is a self-reflexive performance lecture springing from just one important question: do individuals become less politically engaged in later life? From his agit-prop theatre and radical Marxist publications in the late 60s, to enjoying his comfortable home and watercolours as a man in his seventies in the present day, he wonders out loud if it is he or the world that has shifted imperceptibly.

He uses several interviews with radical firebrands, and even his younger self (as a softer, hippy version of Beckett's Krapp) in an effort to see 'if I was on the right side of history', and if his peers too have sustained their radical activism. Talking heads in the video and audio clips include David Aaronovitch, Sue Clegg and Carole Moss, but Tariq Ali aside, there is a slight lack of people of colour here.

Edgar is a gentle, wry presence, and Frankie Bradshaw's cunning set is festooned with mountains of files onto which William Reynolds' projections are beamed. Red balloons represent disparate ideologies, a single black-gloved hand is raised in protest, and Edgar wonders if any or all have been upheld in the present day, and if so, how necessary they still are.

Weaving the cultural and political shifts from past to present can be didactic, but he neither preaches nor hectors: Edgar maintains a level of self-deprecation throughout, undercutting any finger-pointing. The scenes of him ridiculing himself as a frock coat-wearing, Wildean wannabe should strike a chord with anyone whose wardrobe has been as experimental as their ideas.

It's all gloriously deadpan, but Christopher Haydon's direction means that the unexpected twist is as delightful, empowering and passionate as Edgar still clearly is: this is a humane, funny and often rather beautiful paean to optimism, progress and sowing the seeds of change.

Traverse, until 25 Aug, times vary, £21 (£15.50).

Trying It On

  • 3 stars

Warwick Arts Centre and China Plate It’s 1968, the height of the worldwide student revolt. David is 20. The Vietnam War rages. Martin Luther King is assassinated. These events will define David's politics, his writing and his life. 50 years on, in his professional performing debut, David is confronted by his 20-year-old…