Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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When fourteen-year-old boy Red starts at a new school after his parents’ divorce, his mum anxiously worries about him making friends. Soon, his mobile is constantly buzzing with texts and he’s out most evenings. Mum’s happy but she only sees the life Red constructs especially for her. Someone, or rather something, else has the privilege of an uncensored view – Red’s mobile. As the vulnerable boy is sexually exploited by his unsatisfied maths teacher, his phone sees everything and narrates the story around the characters’ interactions. This slick ensemble piece by NY theatre company One Year Lease seamlessly merges writing styles, design and physical theatre to tell a dream-like story of abuse veiled as love.

When Red’s maths teacher confiscates his mobile and accidentally takes it home with her instead of her own phone, she begins a downward spiral of communication that quickly becomes personal. Red’s parents separation is far from pleasant, and his teacher’s boyfriend is an unemployed layabout, with vague dreams of designing apps. This combination fosters a relationship where the teacher and the student inappropriately confide in each other, and she does nothing to stop it.

Suspicion helps propel the action upwards towards a climactic end, but a lack of consequence in Kevin Armento’s resolution is as disturbing as the story itself. The phone as narrator is a great device – it’s present enough to add context and framing, but is not overused to the point of becoming a gimmick. Abstract movement incorporating versatile set pieces adds a striking, dynamic visual and a disconnect from reality appropriate to a forbidden relationship. A live musical score by Estelle Bajou enhances the surrealism of the staging.

Mathematical equations coldly explain how their illicit affair develops, and minimalist design in black and white juxtaposes the intricacies of the complex lives that collide so inappropriately. Though the script avoids blatant condemnation of the relationship, Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally is a striking blend of visual and verbal storytelling.

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally runs through 28th August.

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