‘Trying It On’ review

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
David Edgar, Trying It On, 2019
© Lara Cappelli

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Playwright David Edgar tackles his generation’s rightward shift in this entertaining one-man-show

In 1976, David Edgar, a young leftwing writer, was aghast to see fascism on the march via the recent successes of the National Front; he skewered them in ‘Destiny’, his first hit and the beginning of his fruitful working relationship with the RSC.

Forty-three years on, Edgar is a respected elder statesman of the British theatre scene, a prolific playwright’s playwright, still working with the RSC. And he’s seen the forces of the far right on the move again. But this time, he worries, it’s his generation that has enabled Brexit and the various darknesses that go with it.

And so he’s assembled ‘Trying It On’, an improbably entertaining one-man-show: part autobiography, part vindication, part self-laceration.

Via facts, figures, shows of hands from the audience and the interrogation of a series of pre-recorded, projected talking heads, he tries to get to grips with how the baby boomers who espoused such radical views in their youths drifted to the right in their twilight years. And while he clearly didn’t vote for Brexit himself, he finds a wonderfully entertaining way of making it all about him - he conducts a wry, often magnificently withering analysis of his younger years and introduces a snotty young David Edgar as a character, represented by a voice on an antiquated tape recorder.

Is it all a bit pompous? Absolutely. But in an ending section to Christopher Haydon’s production that’s rather more theatrical than the preceding show suggests, Edgar savages himself for his hubris, and concedes that perhaps he will not be the man to solve all this.

Fundamentally, it’s a very good piece of docu-theatre about how the ’boomers turned on us, that also makes you want to spend some time down the pub with the playwright David Edgar, who – for all the considerable failings pointed out in ‘Trying It On’ – seems like a thoroughly decent sort.

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