EDINBURGH 2013 - BWW Reviews: HIGH PLAINS, Underbelly, August 11 2013
Set in A Unique Little Town (Ault for short), BrIan Watkins' gripping one-man play HIGH PLAINS tells the extraordinary confession of Jake, a young construction worker with a dark secret and haunting tale to tell. This tale of sibling rivalry and young love has been winning plaudits across America, and deserves to be a Fringe hit.
From the moment Jake (Ben Newman) walks onto the stage, beaten and bruised, his shirt dirty and torn, the audience is transfixed. The next 60 minutes is simply mesmerising. We hear about everything from the history of Ault (and the 'jerkoffs' who thought it would be a good name for a town), through childhood fights between brothers to a woman whose love will come between them with catastrophic consequences.
Newman is an enchanting storyteller, effortlessly engaging the audience as he switches gears through cynicism, humour and sheer fear. He weaves in clever one-liners with astute observations and effectively makes us co-conspirators as he goes deeper and deeper into his confession. Anthony Reimer's direction combines minimalism with a real trust for his actor, and this pays dividends.
As the story reaches its climax, and we begin to understand what caused Jake to appear in front of us in such a state, sound and description combine perfectly to recreate the terrifying night. This brings memories of ghost stories told round the campfire, right down to the physical jolt at the very end.
There is little to fault; perhaps the writing chose the lazy option every now and again to sort out problems in the plot, but this is minor and hardly subtracts from much from the overall experience. This chilling and spellbinding production should be an Edinburgh must-see.
"HIGH PLAINS" runs until August 25th at the Underbelly Cowgate.