Photo credit: The Other Richard

Les Enfants Terribles (in association with Pins & Needles) return with a new show that will take you to the depths of one man’s insanity, in an hour of surreal and quirky theatre. Flies is at Pleasance 2 in Pleasance Courtyard for the remainder of Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Dennis has been suffering from pteronarcophobia (a persistent and increasingly irrational fear of flies) ever since he can remember. Consultations with his psychiatrist, Dr Rickman, don’t seem to be helping – even the doctor has basically given up on him, keeping Dennis to regular appointments in order to upgrade the furniture in his office rather than with any hope of success. In desperation, Dennis decides to go to Antarctica, as it’s supposed to be an environment that’s free of flies, but when that idea also leads to disaster he figures there’s no other option: he must become a spider.

There’s no doubt about it – this has to be one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen on a stage for quite some time, but somehow it just works. When you have a fairly straightforward, yet odd, story like this (Oliver Lansley) the best thing to do is just go all out and accentuate the insanity of it; as Dennis descends further into insanity, unsure of what or whom to trust, it seems only right t hat we as an audience should also be questioning what we see, be it a talking fly or a musical penguin…

The show is soundtracked by music from Kid Carpet, which is mixed live on stage by Harry Humberstone. Particularly as the show reaches its horrifying conclusion, the music throbs and pulses through the room, engulfing the audience – and, in combination with Chris Swain’s lighting design, it becomes more of an experience than something to simply sit back and watch.

Piers Hampton is the most suave version of a fly you’ll ever see, stood there in his white tux and talking about how he did what he did just because he’d taken a disliking to you: “I took a shit on your food, then I vomited on it and then I stamped around in it with my sticky little feet.” His cool and collected behaviour makes this all the more hilarious, especially as you start to anticipate his reappearance with more tales. As Dennis, George Readshaw brings an incredibly frenetic energy to his performance, as well as a bumbling awkwardness that his character is content to blame on his fear. He is essentially quite mild-mannered for the most part, however, which makes his transformation towards the end all the more terrifying.

Photo credit: The Other Richard

My verdict? An hour of quintessential absurdist comedy, made into an experience thanks to terrific music & lighting design – and topped off with brilliantly convincing performances.

Rating: 4*

Flies runs at Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance 2) until 27 August 2018 (5pm, 1 hour). Tickets are available online or from the box office.

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