The Fringe isn’t short of millennial flatmate shows, but Digs is the one that shows how cleverly it can be done. Royal Central School of Speech and Drama trained duo Jess Murrain and Lucy Bairstow (aka Theatre with Legs) capture the essence of a flat share through a devised approach which has little resort to conventional storylines.
It’s loosely sketch in the comedy sense, but also sketch in the sense of being very lightly drawn. Scenes sometimes rely on vague half-sentences or a flurry of movement which carries just enough meaning and nuance. In this way, they convey many of the familiarities of flatmate life: the nagging phone calls from a mother, left to go to answerphone; the coordination of morning routines; the sleepless nights when someone’s partying or shagging in the next door flat; the reverse – when someone’s banging on the floor to get you to shut up; the awkward getting to know each other stage.
In one recurring thread, Lucy plays herself as a conventional, dressing-gowned homebody with slight OCD and a desire to be a bit wilder, Jess as an aspiring grime artist whose life seems impossibly exciting.
The dynamic changes across scenes as the duo show different sides of houseshare relationships. As new flatmates, they have awkward non-conversations, trying to be super-polite to each other. As established ones, they chatter excitedly about how compatible they are in a way that suggests there might be disagreement under the surface.
Digs has all the benefits of the devised approach (naturalness, the discovery of a distinct voice) but seldom finds the pitfalls (self-indulgence, vagueness). They’re not apeing anything or reaching for obvious touchstones; they’ve worked this into something that feels right for them. It’s not a perfect hit, because you’re not always sure what they’re aiming at, but they’re the kind of performers that make you think they’ve got a perfect hit in them at some point.
Digs is a hard sell style-wise, but it is exactly what the Fringe is for. There’s independence of style and approach here, good chemistry and bags of potential.