The greatest joy in visiting a fringe festival is being able to wander into a show with little to no awareness of what it’s about. Not every show turns out to be worth the time of day, but frequently they’re as good as Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.
I had a couple of hours to fill between shows I’d booked, and had only glanced at the description, but it was cabaret, and it was soon, and it was close, and it was free, so it hit my favourite fringe criteria perfectly, I just hoped there weren’t too many references to imperial measurements to confuddle me. Wandering over to the Crown and Anchor, I got myself a cider and sat down outside the band room. I’d been there but a moment when an attractive gentleman wearing a tuxedo print t-shirt introduced himself as Mark Metaphor, the performer, and sat and chatted for a couple of minutes before heading in and inviting me to proceed.
At this stage, I still had no idea what to expect, and was surprised to see a projector screen taking up most of the stage, leaving very little room for the handsome gent and causing me to hope I was still in my cabaret safe space. Nonetheless, he shortly took up a space beside the screen and introduced the show, thanking what seemed to be more than a few relatives and friends in the audience.
I was pleasantly surprised to realise that the show was going to present four television interpretations of Richard Matheson’s short story, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, while reading from the original text (impressively, he had much of it memorised). Snippets from the television interpretations spanned from the 1960s to the early 2000s, including live action and animations, serious adaptation of the original and comic spoofs. Mark’s screen mashup was timed brilliantly to allow for an impassioned reading of Matheson’s text, and the whole scenario was novel and rich and engaging.
I remained enthralled until a technical glitch with the puter running the projections broke the atmosphere, and the techie hurriedly attempted to get it up and running again. Mark carried on as any professional performer would, and eventually paused to realign his reading with the projection, quickly reestablishing the lost atmosphere. Despite this glitch, the show turned out to be a gem.
This is such a simple but novel idea, and one that could be so engaging. I hope I’ll see more of Mark’s shows at future fringes.