Bummer and Lazarus is a high energy, absurdist comedy brought to the Edinburgh Fringe by the Big Egg Theatre. Surprisingly subtle, unless the reference to two stray dogs from San Francisco is familiar. And I’ll be honest, it took a lot to convince my 9yo daughter this was a play about dogs (I’m thinking she was comparing the characters more to her twin brothers…).
Without even referencing that Bummer and Lazarus are actually dogs, this production takes you into the existential exploration of humanity. This is the tale of the best of friends with the greatest differences. As Lazarus, Jack Harrison is relentless. Bringing to the stage a high physical energy at times it feels exhausting to watch. And when the performance isn’t physical, he brings the same level to his speech. As Lazarus he is fantastically convincing as a younger pup, and in his questioning of the world plays well to Alec Walker’s Bummer.
Bummer has the physicality of the master. Alec Walker’s control over his character enables Lazarus to be believable. Walker ensure the slapstick doesn’t betray the need to appreciate the characters. Bummer’s role of master sees him teach the forgetful dog everything that as humans we take in our stride, and a lot more. From understanding the concept of ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘you’, to the concept of pointing, of fingers, of hunger, of the mind. Before you know you’ve got there, Bummer is explaining causality, quantum mechanics, and death.
Underpinned by a wonderful script, these two characters explore and convey fears and realities of life and beyond. Through careful balance of humour through canine priorities, enough light-heartedness is retained. It is a given that somehow Bummer and Lazarus are trapped, starving and with a need to escape. The realities of the fragility of life is accepted and the exploration of humanity is brought to bear.
Lazarus’s focus is on understanding if, and how, he might be remembered. When he is left alone by Bummer, the reliving of waiting for someone to return becomes real. As would be, Bummer returns. The intellect shown throughout by this character reinforcing that survival allows a friendship to be maintained.
Bummer and Lazarus’s success is both in a beautifully written script and in the energy brought to the stage. Harrison is a joy as Lazarus, the energy of physicality, speech and thought. Walker creates a wonderful balance of intellect and measure in Bummer. A convincing and complex friendship explored.
The thoughts left are more uncomfortable than comforting. And yet, the feeling that this is a beautiful piece of theatre remains.
Bummer and Lazarus is at Greenside @ Infirmary Street as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. You can catch the show until Saturday 18th August 2018.
Disclosure: We have media accreditation for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. All words and opinions contained are our own.