Fringe Review: Spoiler Alert
A tender, funny glimpse into the future
Located at Greenside @ Infirmary Street until the 25th, Spoiler Alert is a warm, quirky and often very funny piece of new writing by recent Cambridge graduate Charlotte Cromie. The play centres around a primary school teacher cursed with the ability to see into the future: think "That's so Raven" meets "Juno".
Spoiler Alert succeeds in making us ask what kind of knots we must tie ourselves in to make relationships work, and whether the whole process of shielding your identity for the benefit of those around is even worth it.
The set up is simple and brilliant: how does Maddy (played with the wry energy of a US sitcom's suburban housewife by Sophie Atherton) maintain her relationship with her boyfriend (Chortle student stand-up finalist and master of comic timing Alex Franklin) despite her being able to foresee his violent death? The play thus succeeds primarily as a good old fashioned romcom. All great romantic comedies ask whether relationships can survive in exceptional circumstances: what happens if geographical distance, cultural barriers or, as in this example, the ability to predict the future gets in the way? Spoiler Alert absolutely shines at the way that the fantasy setup provides a great standpoint to explore the relationship between Maddy and Jim.
There is a nice symmetry between the leads in the way that neither of them can fully focus on the present – either through Atherton's character being "prophetic" and constantly thinking about the future, or Franklin's slacker character's complete inability to remember his girlfriend's name. The ever-so-slightly-awkward chemistry between the two is perfect – as an audience you completely buy into their relationship and its flaws.
The weakest elements are probably the ensemble sections involving "Prophetics Anonymous" – simply because the play doesn't really make its mind up about what this is supposed to be a metaphor for. Is it sexuality, a hidden disability, membership of a minority religious or cultural group?
This scattergun approach betrays a deeper lack of focus – the cast seems a bit too big and some scenes feel unnecessary or bloated with jokes that don't quite land. That said, Izzy Lewis as a smarmy group-therapy leader and Will Hale as a 2000 year old prophet are very, very funny – with Lewis' sideways glances and Hale's pained expressions displaying a pure knack for comic timing.
The ending also feels a little rushed, with lots of the plot payoffs we were expecting getting sort of explained away by a line or two. We definitely don't have the sort of neat jigsaw-like conclusions that an episode of "That's So Raven" might have.
However, this isn't a play about predicting the future – its a play about a relationship that uses the concept of the future to focus in on the present relationship between the two leads.
Ultimately, this is a warm and touching play sustained by two great central performances. Its a little rough around the edges, but we leave the theatre staring, like Maddy, into the future – at the very promising careers of writer Cromie and her young cast.