EDINBURGH 2019: BWW Review: THE PROFESSOR, Assembly Rooms
The Professor (David Calvitto), for reasons unknown, is taking his final class. The piece jumps between a variety of pop culture subjects in order to cram as much as possible into this swansong. But despite all the detail, Brian Parks' production has very little to say.
Calvitto is a beguiling performer-cum-lecturer. He winds his way through a narrative that effortlessly intermingles fact with fake news, and in doing so highlights how society confuses the two. Parks' script jumps from discussion point to anecdote, seemingly haphazardly, but always with an allusion to the final reveal that will bring this story together. There's a lightness to the text - the words easily skip over a plethora of topics and thousands of years, reminiscent of a skilful academic, a plenary speaker.
But despite his mannerisms and dynamism, Calvitto has trouble keeping up with his character. His attempts at comedy often fall flat and he stumbles over monologues, getting lost in this storytelling maze. The Professor comes across as a little unhinged and doddery - exactly as the character should be - but Calvitto could do more to build his delivery into something climactic, impactful, unexpected.
Because the end reveal is completely predictable. It doesn't engender any sense of sympathy for The Professor as much as it does pity. For such a potentially absurdist narrative, neither Parks nor Calvitto seem to push boundaries or challenge form. It's as resistant to change as the academic institutions it parodies. And, for a time, The Professor gets lost completely within those hallowed halls.
The Professor needs editing. It rambles without direction and lacks a magnitude of surrealism that an audience has come to expect from comedy nowadays. If the most avant-garde joke in this production is a fart gag, then this character's ending is not just expected, it's inevitable.