Pathetic Fallacy‘s creator, Anita Rochon, cannot actually take part in her show: she’s trying to fly less, for fear of hurting the earth. So instead, she has roped in another Fringe performer – today it’s Australian comic Sam Taunton – to perform in front of a green screen while she feeds instructions via a monitor.
It’s an ambitious premise, especially because the show will be, by its very nature, a bit slapdash. And although the performers are probably self-selecting (what masochist would put themselves forward for this if they weren’t up for a bit of improvisation?), they’re still woefully unprepared for what Rochon has in store for them.
The show explores its namesake, pathetic fallacy – how we attribute human emotions to non-human experiences, such as the weather – through the aforementioned green screen. Taunton’s level of participation varies, but he spends a lot of the time looking completely lost. To be clear, that isn’t a slight on his skills, because he really shines when given an opportunity to speak (for instance, when green screen Anita sits on a plane with him and quizzes him about his life). The issue is, the entire idea of a completely ad-libbed play with new participants every night is just a little too ambitious, especially because the performers don’t actually have that much opportunity to interpret Rochon’s instructions how they want – they’re too busy trying to keep up.
It’s a shame, because apart from this hiccup, Pathetic Fallacy grapples with its subject matter very effectively. It spreads its focus evenly across lots of different subjects (such as projected works of art, weather forecasts, and a conversation between Anita and her father Paul, which is touching), all of which present a unique perspective on climate change. And the call at the end between Anita in Canada and Sam in Edinburgh is the highlight of the show – it prompts both Taunton and the audience to reflect on what they’ve just seen, and how it made them feel (the point of Rochon’s entire production).
Pathetic Fallacy has beautiful graphics, a fascinating premise, and a lot of potential. What’s more, it has a very important message. But, just like the performer acting it out, it gets a little lost.