Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 17 August: Part Two

Hailing from LA, Waitless is a semi-autobiographical play about newlyweds Shelly and Trent, from the American south but living in New York. Trent works in finance and Shelly in TV production, but when Trent’s job transfers him to London, Shelly gives up her career to go with him. Told through heightened, contemporary farce with moments of sincerity, Waitless shows that the cultural gap between the UK and US is bigger than you think.

Actors Jessica Moreno and Andrew Boyle play all of the stereotyped characters, with the primary focus on Shelly’s emotional struggle and adjustment from career woman to housewife. Moreno seems to be the stronger performer here, but she has more to work with. Because they are using such a heightened performance style, moments of truthfulness are rare. A more naturalistic performance style would better serve the story’s message and give the actors meatier roles to explore, however both performers are extremely energetic and they have some lovely stand-alone scenes together.

These scenes make nice set pieces, but as a cohesive whole, the play could use a bit more substance. Shelly needs more intimate, honest moments alone with the audience when Trent is away for work to give the script a bit more weight. The ending is also abrupt and open, which doesn’t show a completed character arc. There is certainly scope for the play to be lengthened. There are heaps of jokes and references that I appreciate as an American who also relocated to the UK, but this narrows the play’s target audience down to a small demographic. It’s telling that I was the only person in the audience who chuckled at some of Shelly’s digs at British culture: British people won’t relate to her frustration, and neither will Americans who have never lived abroad. Any immigrant will be able to empathise with her situation though, at least in part.

Overall, it’s a great issue to look at onstage. Immigration is a hot topic in many countries, and the immigrant experiences in the news focuses on an entirely different demographic. Those who quietly relocate to work or study largely go unnoticed, often battling the cultural adjustment alone and unsupported. The script needs some adjustment in order to truly capture the emotional upheaval and rediscovery that comes from this momentous life change, but it is heading in the right direction.

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