The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Relax, a play with nothing is on

Edinburgh, Aug. 4 (Reuters): Sit back, relax and watch the play that offers absolutely nothing — no actors, no props, no sound and no plot.

For The Theatre of Relativity has come up with the ultimate nihilistic experience on stage — a play called Sweet FA — that is the talk of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The problem is that no one is coming to see it.

For an entrance fee of £3, the audience are invited in the early hours of the morning to take their seats in a 142-seat theatre set up in a four-star hotel.

And that basically is it.

If you survive a full hour of nothing, then the management refunds half your ticket.

On the first night, six journalists attended, ensuring the play hefty media coverage. On the second night, one journalist turned up and he fell asleep in the lobby before the show started. Despite the publicity, the play has not caught on yet with the theatre-going public.

“We will see,” said Julian Caddy, venue manager for the British company Sweet Productions which is staging the play.

“Only time will tell if it captures the public’s imagination as they drain out of the pubs and clubs.” Composer John Cage “wrote” a piece of silent music in 1952 entitled Four Minutes and 33 Seconds. Britain’s Turner Prize has been won by a room with a light switching off. So what is so absurd about Sweet FA, argued Caddy.

“It’s the play Samuel Beckett (the prize-winning Irish author of Waiting for Godot) always tried to write but never had the balls to pull off — no set, no actors, no script, no props... just Sweet FA.”

There is nothing pretentious about Caddy. He is vastly amused by the press coverage, clearly thinking you can fool all of the people all of the time with what he billed as the perfect antidote to the noisiest festival in the world.

But members of the Scottish parliament were not amused. “It’s just nonsense,” said conservative Phil Gallie.

“I don’t think it’s art. Art usually indicates that somebody did something,” complained independent parliamentarian Margo Macdonald.

Pickings are slim so far but hope springs eternal for Caddy.

Perhaps the madcap Fringe, billed as the world’s biggest arts festival, might garland the production with an award'

“I think if the Fringe is about anything, it is about having fun and experimenting,” Caddy said. “The beauty of the Fringe is you can do anything you like and, if you choose, nothing at all.”

Comic terrorist

Self-styled “Comedy Terrorist” Aaron Barschak’s act garnered more publicity than any other in the history of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. But it was still a monumental flop. Barschak achieved worldwide notoriety in June when he gate-crashed Prince William’s 21st birthday celebrations at Windsor Castle dressed as Osama bin Laden in drag. The inveterate publicity seeker implored Britain’s astounded royal family to come and see his Edinburgh Fringe show “Osama Likes It Hot”.

But the plea has fallen on deaf ears in Edinburgh. The critics crucified his show, Barschak missed one performance suffering from exhaustion and the tiny 100-seat Underbelly Theatre has been barely half-full.

“I just did it for a laugh. I just wanted to fill a theatre,” he told his sparse Sunday afternoon audience.

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