Edinburgh Fringe Fest - The Baron and the Junk Dealer
The creators of long-running underground comedy hit The George Lucas Talk Show are bringing a new theatre show to the Edinburgh Fringe. The Baron and the Junk Dealer sees two fugitives – a mysterious aristocrat and a paranoid junk merchant – stranded together on a desolate planet.
The team behind the play describe it as “Waiting For Godot in space” or “True West, but in another galaxy” or “Hamlet, but there's two of them, one of whom is Lear”. You don’t need to know anything about Star Wars to enjoy the play, but fans of the mega-franchise may recognise some similarities between the characters in The Baron and The Junk Dealer and ‘Baron Notluwiski Papanoida’ and ‘Watto’ from the mega-franchise. Maybe.
We spoke to performer and writer Connor Ratliff to find out more about the play.
Is the show exclusively for Star Wars fans?
Not at all. It's an original play – a "sci-fi tragicomedy" – that was written to appeal to that elusive mix of Star Wars fans, people who hate Star Wars, and even people who have never seen a Star Wars thing in their entire life. If we've done our job correctly, it should make sense to someone who comes in off the street not knowing anything about it. It’s a standalone, self-contained work.
Who, or what, is Watto?
Well, Watto is a character who appears in the first two Star Wars prequels that George Lucas made in the late 1990s/early 2000s. He's an alien who runs a junk shop and we meet him because he "owns" two slaves: a woman and her young son. That son is Anakin Skywalker, who grows up to be Darth Vader.
One of the two characters in our play also happens to be an alien junk dealer, but his identity is something of a mystery when the play begins. I'll leave it to audiences to decide if they are the same guy.
What kind of themes are explored in The Baron and the Junk Dealer?
It's an Odd Couple play – two characters who would otherwise never associate with one another find themselves stranded on a desolate planet together – but the stakes are much higher, it's not "you're messy and I like the apartment to be tidy." They are stuck together in a life-or-death situation, waiting to be captured or killed.
But it's also about what it means to be a good or bad person, and how much we measure that in comparison to other people. And how the stories we tell are also a way of projecting to the world where we think we fit on that continuum.
Is there a huge difference in reaction between New York and Edinburgh audiences?
I'm not sure yet! We've had good fortune over the years because the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City was for many years our home theatre and we very quickly attracted a cool audience who was drawn to our peculiar comedic wavelength. But my assumption based on everything I've heard from friends and colleagues is that Edinburgh audiences are the usual mix of enthusiastic and sceptical. Which is what you want, as a performer, I think – it's great to have someone who is on board from minute one, but it's also satisfying to have an audience member who isn't quite sure what they've gotten themselves into, and win them over.
What do you want from the Fringe 2023?
We want to take risks and have fun – we're scheduled to do 30 shows in 27 days, and I think we want that to be a journey. We could've put this play up in New York first, where we know we have the audience for it and we know we could get a positive reaction. That felt a little bit too "safe." I think the hope is that this way will be more of an adventure and will ultimately transform the play into something it might not otherwise have become.
The Baron and The Junk Dealer will be performed at 5.55pm in Assembly Roxy (Downstairs) from 2nd – 24th August