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One-man conversation reflects on big changes

Trying It On, The Goose Nest, Warwick Arts Centre, until June 9

To misquote Philip Larkin, political protest reared its head in 1968, along with the spread of the Vietnam War and the threat of a French police state. Not that the momentous events in Paris 50 years ago get much of a look in here. Trying It On, written and performed by David Edgar, is set on this side on this side of the Channel and across the Atlantic – in places where Edgar has lived, studied and worked as one of our more eminent playwrights. This piece is essentially a conversation between David, aged 70, and David, aged 20, with many reflections on how society has changed in the intervening half century. Or not. This is Edgar’s first venture into acting. Fair play to him, as we say round here. It takes some courage to stand and talk to a sizeable audience for the best part of an hour and a half. There are a few interruptions, mind you. Interviews with old “lefties” like Tariq Ali as well as columnists such as David Aaronovitch and Paul Mason are projected on to a set largely made up of stacked cardboard boxes. Does Trying It On pull it off? Up to a point, Lord Copper. (Yes, despite the best efforts of student revolutionaries from half a century ago, we still have a House of Lords.)

At times it felt more like being in a lecture theatre than a studio theatre. There were questions to the audience about our voting habits, the answers being chalked, or rather marker-penned on the boxes. The most dramatic moment came when the young woman who seemed to be monitoring events from the side of the stage suddenly threw down her headphones and interrupted Edgar’s ponderings with some choice phrases. She was representing the millennials, venting her spleen on the baby-boomers who have apparently stolen her generation’s future. Not least by voting for Brexit. Very few of the Arts Centre audience confessed to doing so - and there were a fair number of baby-boomers present, many of them straining to hear what was being said. The acoustics didn’t help. After all, The Goose Nest is a temporary venue while the studio theatre is being renovated: Not an easy place to make one’s acting debut with a play exploring complex changes in society since 1968. In future performances, it might be as well to take some misquoted advice from EM Forster: Only project.

Trying It On moves to the Birmingham Rep on June 12 and 13, and to The Other Place, Stratford (dates to be announced).

For tickets go to:

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