Fossils tells a strange and absorbing tale, accompanied by even stranger and even more absorbing music, of self-discovery and exploration, partly in a lab and partly in the Scottish wilderness. A 28-year old post-doctoral scientist who becomes gripped with finding her father and/or the Loch Ness Monster must navigate her past and the north of England with the reluctant help of her PhD student supervisees. It sounds tonally confusing, and it is, but stylistically, the production’s own idiosyncrasies assemble something that is consistently arresting, and at times quite beautiful.
It’s certainly deploys the most imaginative use of theatre staging this reviewer has seen at 2016’s Fringe – props are the hour’s watchword, be they pipettes, toy boats or dinosaur toys; what they become next is anyone’s guess, but two basins of water are usually involved. The centrepiece of the production however is the outstanding electronic score, created live through loops and foley techniques before our eyes. Extremely well judged and captivating, this rough-around-the-edges backdrop colours a piece that might otherwise have felt a little empty. As it happens, the play is brought to life not only through samples and beats but through vocals, DIY percussion and even a harmonium. Fossils is by some way at its strongest during its more musical segments, carefully positioned and expertly composed as they are.
The performers are capable enough, but the characters are awfully thinly drawn and the play ends prematurely just as it seems things are really about to get going. Worth a watch for the music alone however, Fossils only just misses out on a four star rating.