Fossils is a highly technical piece brought to the Fringe by the award-winning Bucket Club. A great example of cross-disciplinary arts, the play will appeal as much to fans of electronic music as of live theatre. In a story about a young scientist’s search for her father (and for the Loch Ness monster), the team maintains a subtle balance between emotive storytelling and comic performance.
The Bucket Club deserve recognition for their use of sound alone. Fossils shows itself to be irrevocably contemporary when the group turn their science lab into a mixing desk. The ever popular looping technique is used, place names are chanted in rhythmic verse, distortion adds to the moody ambience onstage – even a violin makes a brief appearance. The stage almost feels like a nightclub when Adam Farrell and David Ridley comically bob their heads in time to their own recitations. Sound is expertly used onstage to create the right background noise and to set the mood.
The story’s twists and turns are surprising but well-handled. The beginning feels like another fast-paced comic play with the usual quick banter. Bad jokes about fish are exchanged by biological scientists, and actors break the fourth wall to make witty comments about the action onstage. This is over time dispelled by a more complex and sensitive plot, where real empathy is generated towards the characters. The transition from flat to emotive characters could feel forced, but the performers negate this by showing themselves getting to know each other whilst they open up to the audience. The play becomes a moving testament to the secret lives that we all lead, and how some of us distract ourselves from them by throwing ourselves into work.
Nel Crouch’s writing is especially beautiful towards the end. Words previously used in the science lab inspire fantastic metaphors for the main character’s hunt for her long-lost father (a much needed clue of his whereabouts is labelled “evidence” for example). Vanessa’s final confrontation with her past is almost poetic, with descriptions of Loch Ness enhancing the crescendo of music in the background.
The team achieve what most plays want – a lingering atmosphere at the end fuelled by a script and technical effects that seamlessly complement each other. At times the actors do stumble in their delivery, but this can be overcome with practice. Fossils remains a unique and clever piece of theatre.