Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: Crash and Burn, VisceralTheatre, EdFringe 2023 ★★★★☆

Forthright and tense, Crash and Burn takes off on the concepts of climate justice, activism, and celebrity culture with verve and style. A plane carrying oil tycoon Joseph Johnson to the COP26 Climate Conference alongside narcissistic faux-activist actor Amodius Vassano is hijacked by eco-activists in search of a confession and reparations. This show combines a stingingly funny attack on the entire eco-system of activism and virtue signalling with an intensely dramatic character-led power struggle. Sleek, unassuming, and often wilfully hilarious, this political thriller has you gripped from take-off to landing.

The moustached Scottish tycoon Joseph Johnson is flanked left and right by his precocious American daughter Janie and environmental officer Margot as they all board a plane to the climate conference. In a stinking coincidence, COP has placed restrictions on the use of private jets meaning our threesome soon come to find they are not on their own. The flamboyant film star and self-proclaimed eco warrior Amodius Vassano swaggers onto stage with fretful personal assistant Cynthia in tow. The piece wastes no time in fearlessly lampooning the hollow gestures of the powerful surrounding climate justice, as well as celebrity culture. While Amodius practices yoga and calls for Joseph to unlock a more spiritual side to his corporate practice, which Joseph quite unsurprisingly has little time for.

Things quickly start to go south as the twitchy and unusual flight attendant Lewis makes an urgent announcement to the passengers, and they discover that all of their lives will never be the same again. In a beautifully designed duel the characters slip and slide from the corners of the stage into the middle to state their piece. Every movement is controlled and poised to deliver a politician-like debate that plays out across the hour, with the stakes high and tension through the roof. The eclectic mix of characters are heightened archetypes of members of society – Cynthia the millenial trapped in a job she hates, Janie the spritely ambitious youthful upper class, Amodius the virtue signalling celebrity caught in his own contradictions. The characters’ personalities are fantastically created to keep the tension rising over the hour. Will Leckie’s script makes use of each of their eccentricities to keep you entranced, and powerful direction sees blocking on stage that is refined.

Nick Gill’s Joseph is an utter revelation – his composed and self-assured attitude bouncing off of the alarmists surrounding him the entire time. Despite being a younger actor, he plays a convincing middle aged oil baron with polish and poise. His long monologues to the audience are reminiscent of Shakespearean soliloquies, as it seems the only one who believes in what he says is him, yet his aura offers that calming sense of control. In contrast his counterpart Amodius is played with ecstatic physicality by Writer-Performer Leckie. It’s immediately clear who he is parodying and despite their being plenty of allusions, the character still manages to have his own sense of unique, and deeply irritating, self. He provokes and prods Cynthia and Joseph with sociopathic ease. As both come to conclusions about their future at the end, their arcs become clear, and this fantastically illustrates the non-action that occurs in circles of celebrity activism and corporate greenwashing.

The energy that bounces between the actors is magnetic and enthralling. The twists, turns, and turbulence of the show’s spiritual second act upend the whole situation in a way I wasn’t expecting, and leaves the audience in giddy ‘Whodunnit’ glee. Emily Gibson’s Janie is entirely believable as the spoilt daughter with a secret, and her character fizzes in a reviling sense of revenge in an unexpected fashion later in the piece. Noah Miller twitches and glares as the mysterious flight attendant, his long speeches and gravelly voice grating against the terrified passengers. His performance brings the whole piece together with his dire inflection and oddball habits. Claudia Rosier’s Margot and Lydia Clay-White’s Cynthia are each gifted performers with their own sub plots, and for no second disappear into the background despite their smaller parts to play in the overall plot.

Creatively speaking, this show unravels itself with gorgeous simplistic stage design and a sense of dramatic brilliance that never falters throughout. Brief interludes of physical theatre and flashes of light feel like a welcome intervention to the action, and I was excited to see where they went after the first one occurred. Unfortunately the remaining two are the weak points of the play – the second doesn’t quite imbue itself with the same frenetic meaning and expression as the first and feels a little contrived. The grand finale, while a warranted end to the play, still left us wanting a little more sense of conclusion. Really, these are small points however, as there is a lot of joy in watching the mystery of it all come together and later pertinent discussion to be had about the play’s themes.

Sleek, bold, unassuming – and often deeply funny – this is a turbulent character-driven drama with a gleaming sense of creativity. Not a second is wasted in this 50 minute (not so) joy ride.

Recommended Drink: They say alcohol is more potent in the air, so grab yourself a plane beer and kick back for this one.

Catch Crash and Burn until August 22nd at TheSpace @ Niddry St – Studio at 21:20. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.

Jake Mace

Our Lead Editor & Edinburgh Editor. Jake loves putting together reviews that try to heat-seek the essence of everything they watch. They are interested in New Writing, Literary Adaptations, Musicals, Cabaret, and Stand-Up. Jake aims to cover themes like Class, Nationality, Identity, Queerness, and AI/Automation.

Festivals: EdFringe (2018-2024), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020), VAULT Festival (2023), Prague Fringe (2023-24), Dundee Fringe (2023)
Pronouns: They/Them