The Inevitable Heartbreak of Gavin Plimsole is billed as one of the most unusual productions at this year’s fringe. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to its reputation.
Upon entering the theatre you are given a heart rate monitor, the results of which are constantly updated and projected on a screen for all to see. Then Gavin (Rhys Lawton) greets us and explains that our heartbeats will partially determine the course of the play, and he uses some willing members of the audience to illustrate how certain exercises can alter the rate at which our hearts beat.
Straightforward and intriguing enough. Then the narrative begins, but unfortunately that’s where this play descends into oblivion. Gavin the toy maker finds out that he has a life-threatening heart disease and his time- or number of heart beats- is limited.
He spends the rest of the play deciding how to use his remaining heart beats, but there’s no narrative progression, just a series of unrelated ideas combined with some scientific facts. Gavin increasingly plays his role as some sort of zany science teacher, trying to maintain the audience’s interest by wildly gesticulating and doing a silly voice.
It’s not the fault of the performers. Gavin is supported by two unidentifiable beings in onesies (Richard Hay and Sarah Griffin) who also multirole as people in Gavin’s life. Everyone in this play is working really hard but it’s hard to tell a story that doesn’t really exist.
For example, I couldn’t understand why Gavin is a toy-maker instead of any other number of professions, and what happened between he and his loved one to cause his heartbreak? Even more baffling was the sense that the audience’s heart rates were having an impact on the play’s direction – we were all floating around in non-narrative space as far as I could tell.
Sadly, this production just goes to show that you need more than a gimmick to make a successful play up at the fringe.
The Inevitable Heartbreak of Gavin Plimsole plays at the Pleasance Dome until August 29th (not 16) and performances begin at 13:40.