FRINGE REVIEW – Penny Dreadful’s Etherdome

*****

The Assembly’s Bosco tent is the perfect venue for Penny Dreadful’s Etherdome, which owes more than a little to old-time travelling medicine shows. Tent-striped and lined with wooden benches, it certainly lent an air of period authenticity to proceedings.

The three-strong cast also look the part in their cravats, frock coats and facial hair. They are visibly enjoying themselves, not so much chewing the scenery as savouring every last mouthful. Between them they play a handful of scientists, wives, and assorted hangers-on, with the aid of some intentionally ropey costume changes (mostlyinvolving bonnets and comedy beards).

The story concerns itself with the professional rivalry between 19th Century scientist Charles T. Jackson and dentists William T.G. Morton and Horace Wells, each of whom claim to have pioneered the use of
anaesthetic. It’s an odd choice of subject matter but it works for the most part.

Frustratingly, the twists and turns of the narrative are often unclear. It seems the finer points of the plot have been glossed over in favour of humour which occasionally veers too far into the puerile. It also feels overlong – suspect a bit more editing could have taken the time slot down to an hour or less and strengthened the show at the same time.

If you have an afternoon to spare and yearn for a bit of nostalgic melodrama, Penny Dreadful’s Etherdome is a pain-free theatrical experience.

3-29 Aug (not 16) 1410 (1520) @ Assembly George Square

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