The Theatre of Relativity has come up with the ultimate nihilistic experience on stage – a play called Sweet FA – that is the talk of Britain’s annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The problem is that no one is coming to see it. For an entrance fee of £3 ($5), 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 in the Scottish capital. “Only time will tell if it captures the public’s imagination as they drain out of the pubs and clubs.”
Artistic or absurd?
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.”
Sweet FA is a crude British expression meaning “absolutely nothing”.
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 antidote to the noisiest festival in the world.
But local politicians were not amused. “It’s just nonsense,” said a Conservative member of the Socttish parliament, Phil Galli.
“I don’t think it’s art. Art usually indicates that somebody did something,” complained independent MSP 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.”