The Three Peaks

Mon 11th – Sat 16th August 2014

reviews

Catherine Edwards

at 09:41 on 14th Aug 2014

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Upon arrival at The Three Peaks, it was immediately clear that I wasn't quite the target demographic. The understated venue, mature audience and storyline, following two groups of middle-aged friends taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk, didn't fill me with high expectations for a night of laughter – but the production turned out to be extremely watchable and a good deal of fun to boot.

For Anna (Helen Glendinning), the walk had a special poignancy as a way of feeling closer to her recently deceased husband. Glendinning's open monologue was emotional and utterly believable, and throughout the show she remained the strongest and most interesting character.

David Mazza's script was beautifully moving but never self-indulgent, portraying Anna's life after her husband's death with sensitivity and wry Yorkshire humour. The dialogue felt very natural as the characters joked about everyday problems such as Northern weather, Carol's worries about toilet facilities on the walk, and the chirpy charity walkers. The gentle comedy created a good balance with the poignant subject matter and prevented it from ever getting bogged down in sentimentality. Instead, it provided an honest and even optimistic look at moving on after death. For example, Anna's musings on where to scatter her husband's ashes were cut short when she yells to her friends to save her a green jelly baby.

The show used a simple but well put together set, with an opening photo montage, backing music from a live band, and was interspersed with spoken theatre on the theme of the three peaks themselves. These small touches allowed the strong story to remain the focal point, all in all creating an impressive Fringe debut from the group.

The show will no doubt strike a particular chord with people from Yorkshire, keen walkers and anyone who has experienced bereavement. I wouldn't be surprised if several audience members were motivated by the play to tackle the walk for themselves.

Where other shows assault you with experimentalism and gimmicks, Three Peaks charms with good storytelling and understated humour (and free flapjack for the audience), and will provide a welcome break from the chaos of the Fringe. Sometimes the simple ideas are the best.

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Ben Hickey

at 09:48 on 14th Aug 2014

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The Three Peaks is an imperfect but ultimately uplifting look at how we reach an understanding of ourselves and our relationships with others. Following the stories of two separate groups of male and female walkers who take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, the piece is a lightly comic yet thoughtful look at the lengths we go to in order to discover ourselves and cope with personal tragedy.

Some of the acting is slightly shaky but the writing of the characters, all possessing a winning brand of sardonic Northern humour, helps endear them to their audience. The drama is decidedly low key; will Tony’s heart hold out? Will Carol’s bowels? The very fact that Tony gets lost in the car park confirms that this is to be no nerve-shredding expedition and we also get the obligatory ‘What do you mean you’re exhausted? We’ve only been going 20 minutes!’ joke at the very start. Nevertheless, the underlying seriousness of the challenge for each of the walkers, and especially for Helen Glendinning’s recently bereaved Anna, who climbs the peaks so that she may scatter her husband’s ashes, is always in the background, giving the play a slightly sentimental but meaningful core.

The performance relies on the folksy charm of its characters and little else. There is precious little in the way of set (the walkers have to traverse a rocky pass in the form of a stepladder at one point) and at times the direction resorts to having them amateurishly walking in place. But it seems almost beside the point to criticise this play, a story focused on human connection, for any technical shortcomings.

To offer the performance something in the way of technical depth there is a three-strong chorus played by Caroline Walmsley, Andrew Easson and Maria Mazza, who provide some historical, spiritual and philosophical context to the walker’s pilgrimage up the peaks through quotes from Elgar and Alfred Brown. While their delivery may be a little stilted, their role helps the plot escape the trappings of sentimentality and become a deeper reflection on the human compulsion to travel in order to find oneself.

It is a piece which is hardly technically adept but does manage the difficult task of being heart-warming rather than mawkish, and for that it deserves high praise. While the idea of watching elderly men and women stumble over stepladders in pursuit of the meaning of life may not sound like winning entertainment, this is a surprisingly thought-provoking and moving story which deserves to be considered as more than a mere light-hearted comedy.

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