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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Edinburgh Fest Fringe - Polko

By journalist turned playwright Angus Harrison, Polko is a dark memory play centred around three characters: one who’s returned home under a cloud of failure, one who never left home, and one who disappeared. Inspired by reports during lockdown of young people moving back to live with their parents, and it being the largest such migration since the Great Depression, the play is about being back where you started, and the refuge that memory can be when it seems like the future’s been cancelled.

Tell us what Polko is about I hope Polko is about lots of things! But in story terms it's about two old school friends - Joe and Emma - reconnecting when the latter loses her job and is forced to move back home to live with her parents. Returning after almost a decade, she discovers that Polko, the third friend in their gang from school, has vanished under strange circumstances. Meanwhile, Joe is contending with the ups and downs of his mum's friend Peter - a middle-aged man dealing with something of a life crisis after a public humiliation. The play is essentially a few days in the lives of these people as they try to figure out how they fit together, and at which point along the road they took a wrong turn. Oh, and it's all set in a parked car. It was inspired by reports in lockdown of young people moving back with their parents: what was it about this that sparked the play? It was. I read this staggering statistic that, in America at least, the pandemic saw the largest migration of young people moving home to live with their parents since the Great Depression. I was struck by the quality of that historical moment: something so quiet and private happening on such a gigantic scale. Living with your parents is seen as a hallmark of failure in our society, so naturally people tend to keep it to themselves; they internalise it as something abnormal, shameful even. Yet, it's happening everywhere! So many people are back living in cross-generational households, reacquainting themselves with the stuff of their memories. For a lot of people this also means dealing with pretty severe disappointment at how things have turned out. I became interested in the idea of "emerging adulthood" - a term that's been used in the past twenty-years or so to categorise young people who are well past adolescence, but due to economic or social factors are unable to cross into adulthood proper. I wanted to write a play that spoke to the quiet specificity of that experience, but also had a current of something deeper and generational. Did setting the play entirely in the front seat of a car present challenges? When I wrote the play we didn't have a theatre on board, so I imagined it being staged end-on - with the two car seats facing the audience - which seemed obvious and neat to me. Then Paines Plough offered to programme it at the Roundabout, which was obviously fantastic news, but meant we had to figure out how to set a play inside a car in the round. Luckily, through a combination of our brilliant director Emily Ling Williams and set designer Eve Cromwell, the challenge has been more than overcome. I think the play is much more exciting as a result. What do you want audiences to take from the show? I'm always interested in the power of detail to evoke recognition. So I hope people recognise things. Not necessarily anything profound. But small things, turns of phrase, choices the actors make; things that remind them of something or someone. We had lots of great chats in the rehearsal room about the various people and events in our lives the play reminded us of, and I found that very rewarding. I think those various small moments of recognition, when shared, create something much bigger. What are you most looking forward to about being in Edinburgh in August? There's lots I'm looking forward to. Everything at the Roundabout for a start. My friend Nathan Queeley-Dennis has a play in there called Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz which I've read and is superb. Then there will be the whispered recommendations and "must-sees" that whip round every year. Late night comedy is often the best for that. And I'm looking forward to people seeing Polko! (I think?!) But more than all of that I am looking forward to some cold post-show pints and stockpiling on veggie haggis for the train home.

Polko is at Roundabout at Summerhall 2- 27 August. Book here

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