Edinburgh Fringe review: Napier graduates undertake to bring darkly comic gem to the Fringe

In a small Scottish coastal town the bodies may be piling high but the books of Hubble Funeral Directors aren't adding up. Worse, proprietor Eric Hubble has just died, leaving lone employee, Charlie, to welcome his nephew to a family business that’s not all it seems.

Monday, 16th August 2021, 4:45 pm
Lewis Gemmell as Charlie and Dillon MacDonald as Elliot in Corpsing
Lewis Gemmell as Charlie and Dillon MacDonald as Elliot in Corpsing

Corpsing

Space Triplex, Hill Place

THREE STARS

Anya Borrows as Fiona in Corpsing

Only in Edinburgh, during the Fringe, would you find yourself settling down to watch a play laced with gallows’ humour at eleven thirty in the morning and, as dark comedies go, they don’t come much darker than Corpsing.

Written by Calum Ferguson and Lewis Lauder, whose punchy script is nicely balanced with killer one-liners and thoughtful moments of reflection as well as the odd game of charades, Corpsing is a fourth year production from graduates of Napier's Acting and English course, working under the banner Red Rabbit Productions.

Over 65 minutes, Ferguson and Lauder introduce us to three very likeable characters, their genius lies in making the unlikeable likeable. With the death of his uncle, Elliot Hubble’s dreams have all come true. The passing of his distant relative means Elliot has inherited a ‘thriving’ funeral parlour and he can’t wait to get stuck in until he discovers fraud lies at the heart of the business… just as an auditor arrives unexpectedly to examine the books.

Elliot turns to faithful assistant, Charlie, for answers, but can Charlie explain where the money has gone? Will suitor Fiona postpone her report? And where did all those bodies come from?

​Corpsing boasts the same warm, couthy feel invoked by the likes of Compton Mackenzie's Whisky Galore and, intentionally or not, embraces a couple of nice nods to Joe Orton's funereal farce, Loot.​

In the role of Elliot, Dillon MacDonald is by turns bewildered and exasperated playing the straight man to both Charlie and Fiona.

As Fiona, Anya Borrows, with her quick fire delivery - "What am I? A piece of toast? Butter, butter" - is a giggling force of nature with a heart as big as her steely determination.

However, the stand out turn in this production comes from Lewis Gemmell, as Charlie, in a performance that drives the action. Endearingly sinister, he brings an innate innocence to the unforgivable, delivering gallows' humour with relish and a grim irony.

The complimentary chemistry of the three ensures the pace seldom falters, although at times that shared energy allows lines to be lost.

As the action twists and turns towards its ultimate climax, the laughter wanes briefly as the writers address the heart of their subject, euthanasia and the meaning of mercy. A thought-provoking scene.

Unfortunately, the unique skill required to direct for Fringe venues escapes Donna Soto-Morettini who fails to take into consideration the sight-lines of the hall meaning much of the physical comedy is obscured and goes unseen by all but the first couple of rows.

Despite this, Corpsing remains a gem of show that does exactly what the Fringe was made to do, shine a spotlight on new and up and coming talent. The talent on show here bodes well for Scottish theatre.

Runs until August 27

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