Playbill Pick: Boy Out the City at Edinburgh Festival Fringe | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe Playbill Pick: Boy Out the City at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Swore you'd never see a play set during the COVID-19 pandemic? You'll want to see this one.

Declan Bennett in Boy Out The City Roberto Ricciuti

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.

Before 2020 had even come to a close, think pieces were circulating on how artists would enfold the COVID-19 pandemic into future works. Many, including yours truly, expressed exhaustion at the prospect, swearing off seeing any work about the lockdowns until 2030 at the earliest.

The time has come to recant that oath. Declan Bennett (who was most recently on Broadway playing the Duke in Moulin Rouge!) has achieved the near impossible with his one man show, Boy Out The City. Achingly honest, Bennett has crystallized the emotional reality of the lockdown experience in an intensely personal, and yet commensurate experience that flies in the face of topical naysayers.

After jointly fleeing London during the first lockdown for a comfortable country home in Oxfordshire, Bennett's partner, the equally acclaimed actor Fra Fee, booked work that required him to leave the country for six months. Bennett's resulting physical and emotional isolation is depicted through a series of evocative monologues and flashbacks that build across the hour. Throughout, he attempts to fight his way through the residual trauma.

When routine-building, alcohol dependency, and compulsive baking fail to distract him from the darkness on the edges of his psyche, he is forced to face truths he had been fleeing since his childhood as a tormented gay boy growing up in rough and tumble Coventry. Ebbing and flowing like the waves of a windswept storm at sea, Bennett's ability to tap into the visceral emotions intertwined with his memories is captivating, at times equally hilarious and heartbreaking.

While set during the lockdown, Boy Out the City taps into an uncomfortable honesty—rather than attempting to uncover some greater truth or purpose behind the pandemic, Bennett recognizes that history is something we survive. 

Grand proclamations of meaning can be assigned in the aftermath, but the simplicity of one person's life often holds far more emotional weight. The great plays of the modern canon are almost never written to define an epoch. They are written to explore the fragile realities of human connection, identity, and experience. Invaluably, Bennett has brought this discerning approach to the fore, and one can only hope that future lockdown-set plays will follow suit.

Boy Out The City runs until August 27 at the Big Belly at Underbelly Cowgate. For tickets, click here. For recommendations on other comedy shows to see at the Fringe, click here.

Check Out Photos of Boy Out The City at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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