Conventional wisdom suggests we spend around a third of our lives in bed. While a lot of that time is spent either sleeping or doing things unsuitable for a stage at 2:20 in the afternoon, there’s still plenty of time spent on or around a mattress that has, so far, been largely ignored in the hunt for a hit musical.
Enter Bed, Tim Anfilogoff and Alan Whittaker’s debut sung-through musical, on in the Gilded Balloon Teviot for the full Fringe run. Charting the length of a couple’s relationship from the view of a queen-sized mattress, the show presents a poignant, if familiar, portrait of married life.
The bed dominating the centre of the stage provides ample opportunities for some impressive staging. Props emerge from the drawers underneath, while setting the central couple’s relationship almost entirely in the same room grounds the play nicely.
But Ben and Alice are broadly drawn and do occasionally fall into some slightly tired stereotypes. He’s useless at housework, for example, while she admits she only married him because she settled for less. Though the cast do a fine job of selling the action, it’s hard to get fully invested in a story which feels slightly more conventional than the unique setup would suggest.
But there are a few emotional gems in the show’s discography. One particular ballad about the cold anxiety of a stagnating relationship rings perceptively genuine even while some individual character beats feel like we’ve seen them a few times before.
Though that Bed does largely play its premise down the straight and narrow and does distinguish it from much of the comedy dominating the Fringe scene, a few opportunities for humour do feel a tad wasted. The joke lines which are peppered into the lyrics also often get slightly lost in the vocal tempest, which feels like a wasted opportunity to lend the play a more unique tone of its own.
Still, serious theatre is a hard sell at the Fringe at the best of times, and Bed does plenty of things both well and inventive enough to more than justify your time.
Bed is playing at the Gilded Balloon: Teviot until 28 August. Check out the rest of our Edinburgh Festival Fringe coverage here.