Note: This review is from the 2018 Fringe

So what comprises The Greatest Play in the History of the World…? Could it be a grand narrative, a stellar cast or even perhaps some glistening effects? Or may it be the play which tells a story of life, with it’s encompassing links and oddities? The urge to “cram it all in”; endless torrents of information, passion and culture, helps us realise that there are endless stories to be told. Some never and others more so. At the heart of it all though, only one story really matters; ours, or more specifically yours.

The story of Tom and Sara, with their comfy slippers, may not seem to be the Greatest Play but in reality, it’s humbleness (with a shakey twist) is close to it. Spliced through their humble life on Preston Road, our storyteller guides us in facts and anecdotes surrounding the Voyager Discs. Two golden plates containing a collection of Earth’s history, culture, bragging rights and the most heartwarming of all, the sound of a kiss. Here, Ian Kershaw plays with language, drawing out our differences, heavily emphasising those occurring with love and life. He treats language the way many would discuss nature, art or love. Managing to concentrate the purest pathos into superb monologues.

Hesmondhalgh’s encouragement to obtain shoes from the audience adds an immersive level, along with a touch of humour. A humble pair of shoes offers a unique insight into character. With no other cast members, a simple pair of sneakers, slippers or slip-on heels allows the audience to fill in their own image. Her charming ability to completely encapture the audiences attention is evident as heads turn, eyes focused on her as she dots around the stage – the entire room transfixed on this narrative gatekeeper’s every word. Her abilities in tandem with Raz Shaw’s directing enables Hesmondhalgh to shift the Traverse Theatre onto Preston Road, but more impressively an astral field.

Without spoiling the climax, the twists located towards the end of the production can cause raised eyebrows. The direction taken alters the genre of the text, with it being difficult to determine if this was for the better for all.  In the closing moments, however, our strained grey cells re-align to focus on the touching words.

Kershaw’s nuances of humanity, the striking parallels embodied within our relationships boil down to The Greatest Play having multiple meanings  – far from a simple self-gratification. It isn’t the title alone, it isn’t Tom’s play within the text and nor is it the inferred ‘play’ found within the Voyager discs, about the greatest subject: life. It is all of these and more. It is Tom’s story, Sara’s story, your story – our stories.