Aidan Skinner Campbell has been to the theatre. He was not impressed.
“Bullet Buffet”, Fringe Venue 1314, Alva St, Edinburgh
Descending the steps into the basement venue, hastily converted to give the feel of a mad scientist’s lab, a sense of inevitability hung heavy in the air.
After 2007’s ABN Amro spawned both a follow up (2008’s ultimately hubristic Cash Call) and a whole genre which riffed on (Broadway’s AIG and Lehman Brothers) and gobbled up audiences (JP Morgan), director Andrew Wilson returns with an aptly titled but ultimately confused, unconvincing and conservative work in progress.
The work signals its outcome from the start, so there’s no need for spoiler alerts: the ridiculous Stewart Hosie character (an indulgently thin cipher for the producer, Alex Salmond) can only ever choose one option from the titular spread of unpleasant choices he is presented with.
While the final outcome is clear from the first five minutes, when each option is explained we’re subjected to what feels like an eternity of ill-informed speculation to find a Goldilocks solution which doesn’t exist, concealed beneath a rather trite dance of the seven veils.
The first of these, a short section titled “Currency Union”, is a brief reprise of 2014’s effort which quickly exits stage left pursued by a Brexit.
A longer second section is confusing on a number of levels. Entitled “Pegging”, it’s sung in Danish with opera-style subtitles, and is set in a Maersk shipping container filled with the produce from Scotland’s supposedly booming hydroponics industry. Imaginative and suggestive use of Fife’s new found status as a major producer of aubergine and peaches can’t disguise the weak foundations that underpin this section. With an unbalanced orchestra the classic mix of higher interest rates and surpluses don’t translate to a contemporary Scottish setting. Vaguely reminiscent of experimental Icelandic works such as “Kaupthing” and “Glitnir”, it’s as tepid as the summer drizzle in which I was caught on the way from the book festival.
The third section, “Panama”, focuses on the search for the mystical Laffer Curve. Set in the medieval Old Town of Edinburgh it’s a dark, tight place where you’ll have had your tea and an ageing population tries to shrink the state as small as it can.
The best thing that can be said about the final section is that it’s Abba heavy. The second best thing is that it’s short. Four hipsters plan to float around for a short while and then go to a Eurovision club night in the Cowgate, but can’t simply ditch their existing mortgages as they assume and are rejected by bouncers due to their sobriety deficit exceeding 3%.
Sadly this is all just a set up for a cameo from the director as the Man From Del Monte, recruited after “Hosie” trips over his undone trousers and falls out a window and under a bus. After some needlessly protracted and stagey consideration he eventually says “Yes!” to audible groans from the audience who have endured heavy hints this line was coming for what seemed like an eternity. But it ends up mistimed, flat and wanting. Hot buttered self-delusion never tasted so good.