EdFringe 2023 Review: Shimmer ★★★

“Max Campbell’s compelling performance brings O’Keefe’s challenging themes to life, but a few more staging touches would enhance Shimmer.”

John O’Keefe’s classic one-man play, Shimmer, is brought to life by sole performer Max Campbell who leads this run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in the Surgeon Hall’s theSpace UK venue. The stripped back production from No Frills Theatre effectively captures the coming of age story in a bleak, challenging setting of the American midwest.

Campbell recounts a tale of two boys befriending each other in a Midwestern juvenile detention centre. The boys concoct their own fantasy language called ‘shimmer’ a force that they see and hear around them in nature. After being locked up, the boys attempt to escape and reconnect with their family in the nearest town.

No Frills Theatre’s production of Shimmer effectively conjures up an air of mid-century Americana through Campbell’s impressive storytelling ability. The performer masters the script with an impressive confidence, embody the narrative’s array of characters – channelling their voices, mannerisms and movements with a distinctive originality.

With no staging, music or lighting, Campbell must hold our attention for the fifty minute run-time and for the most part does so. Some minor frills – lighting cues, props, or music might have brought O’Keefe’s text to life with a little more vibrancy but Campbell nonetheless explores the material well. The actor captures the sparky, violent energy of detention centre in the array of fights and conflicts with some impressive physical touches, whilst also allowing us to tune into the vulnerability of the protagonists. These young adults live a life of fear, uncertainty and false bravado attempting to survive in the harsh environment. It would have simply been nice to see the environment brought to life with a few more additional staging elements.

Shimmer runs as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Get tickets for Fringe shows here.

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