Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022 Theatre Review: Candy (Underbelly Bristo Square) ★★★★

When Will sees the woman of his dreams singing in the local club, he is overwhelmed by feelings of love, and of what could be. The catch? The siren is his best mate Billy performing in drag. A funny, touching monologue about the concepts of masculinity, sexuality and gender, Candy is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Michael Waller. Photo credit: Ali Wright.

Originally written as a 15-minute piece, this version of Candy, like its namesake, is fully realised. Well-developed and challenging, this debut play by Tim Fraser prompts the central character and audience to examine their preconceptions. The text is witty, the observations astute and meaningful, with a clear concept that poses uncomfortable questions.

Michael Waller’s Will is likeable and engaging, with a conversational delivery that is both understated and self-effacing. It’s crucial that the audience like him, and they do, rooting for him as he works his way through complex feelings about love and longing. Despite an acute understanding that the person he has fallen for is his friend, Will attempts to separate the two personas he is presented with, a binary concept that cannot be realised.

Michael Waller. Photo credit: Ali Wright.

As Will struggles, and his life begins to crumble, there is meaningful exploration of what it means to “be a man”, mental health, and the unrealistic expectations of romance reinforced by media. Thoughtfully staged and with skilful direction by Nico Rao Pimparé, Waller occupies the full space, with the spectre of Candy ever-present and often holding centre stage. The lighting design is smart and effective, highlighting the dreamlike sequences in Will’s reverie, underscored beautifully with compositions by Stephen Waller.

Good theatre should challenge its audience, and Candy does just that. Will represents an “everyman” of sorts, and the empathy and understanding he evokes demands that we think more carefully about the nature of desire.

By Deborah Klayman

Candy plays at Underbelly, Edinburgh until 29th August 2022.

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