REVIEW: My Mate Dave Died, Edinburgh Fringe 2019 ★★★★★

Two shows down at the Fringe and I’m already chucking out five-star reviews. No, it’s not naivety and innocence which will be ground down over the course of several weeks of shows (although some form of that is possible) – My Mate Dave Died by Crux of It Theatre is just really, really, really good.

Jimmy is trying to revise for his imminent Physics exam while his best mate (Dave, obviously) attempts belligerent distraction, embarrassing him further when the girl Jimmy is dating, Flo, shows up. It’s a classic set-up for comedy about students but, as the title would suggest, there’s more to the show than gags about girls and A-Levels. The play quickly transforms into a celestial adventure across planes of existence once Dave’s promised death materialises, but the Heavens Admissions Department sends him back to Earth to fulfil his purpose.

It’s the kind of show that’s right up my street: high-concept sci-fi fantasy told in a small, human story with spades of comedy and fun performances. Every actor brings their absolute A-game: Wilf Walsworth as Jimmy is both energetic and neurotic; George Evans’ Dave is enough of a dickhead to make us understand the conflict, but empathetic enough to make us want him to get to Heaven; Matt Bevan and Cerys Hayes play extremely well off of each other, both garnering consistent laughs through their impeccable vocal and physical dexterity when paired together and when performing solo. Maddie Farnhill holds her own as the only explicitly non-comedic character, captivating the audience in her character’s mystery, and Izzie Greensmith’s Flo is great as the one character who is resolutely normal and, thus, a good guide for us to engage with. All of the actors’ turns as teenagers feel real, which is often a feat in and of itself.

Particular credit must be paid to the script by Michael Alexander, who also handled directing duties. Its seamless pacing is brought to life by equally seamless scene transitions, and the age-old advice to make every character, no matter how major or minor, as complete as can be (One-Ball Tom, the Angels and the bar lady spring to mind) is well-heeded. Concept and comedy sing from the same hymn sheet with a range of well-executed gags coming out of the fact that the second lead is a ghost invisible to all bar one. It’s a delight to watch, made all the better with a fantastic cast, with a genuinely touching and heartfelt ending, proving their ability to deftly balance the line between comedy and drama.

There are so, so many shows on at the Fringe, but if you’re a fan of original theatre that’s funny and sad all at the same time, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than check out My Mate Dave Died at C Aquila, Temple, Venue 21, performing at 14:10 from August 1- 11 and 13 – 26.

Filmmaker. Casual Reviewer.