Fringe this year has opted for a rating system describing where each show fits in the “comfort zone.” An interesting concept, though perhaps there is one generic comfort zone, and we all know when we are out of it… Elmo advertises as “Pushing the Comfort Zone”, and it’s not in the way you would expect. Benjamin Cittadini’s script is one of a tryptic, in which the challenge is not so much the content but the form – so restrained that it reframes theatricality.
A hospital colour scheme, candy pink walls and two people in turquoise boardies and a tucked in T-shirt meet eyes and look away. They seem innocent, nervous, sweet. We never find out where they are or why they meet like this seemingly every day; maybe it’s a smoko or waiting for a train. Could easily be a dream. The tone is awkward. The whole show sits in awkward as a given, doesn’t try to pretend otherwise. Cittadini has an uncanny ability to write dialogue and leave space. Though we are already in a restrained space, the theatre here happens in the eyes of two lost and quite unemotional beings – Serge (David Quirk) almost laughs and never does, Linda (Jess Harris) almost screams and never does. Our patience is rewarded by a growing familiarity and sharing between cautious people who take their time to become intimate. We are drawn in by gentle humour and understated tenderness.
Some people would absolutely loathe sitting through an hour of Elmo. It doesn’t seek to be a mirror, but it does alert us to the theatre bubbling away in every moment of our supposedly mundane lives. It does not allow for clapping or bowing, no show-biz. It perhaps asks us to stop asking for so much and to be present to what is already there.