The Tour Guide

★★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Published 06 Aug 2011
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This evening’s Edinburgh tour guide has had enough. He’s just lost his father, he’s crippled with debt, and most of all he’s fed up with 20 years of showcasing Edinburgh’s stage-managed sights to hoards of faceless tourists. So today, for his farewell tour, he’s going off-piste, taking his hapless audience on a darkly comic journey around the Edinburgh that only the locals know. Indeed, it is Edinburgh itself which provides the stage for this engaging site-specific production, which all takes place aboard one of the city’s famous cream and claret tour buses.

Tour guide Ian Hanmore is a charming host and his backstreet tour provides the perfect visual context to explain his character’s chequered past: the gym where he boxed with his dad, the park where he first made love to his wife, the bowling club where his friends tried to stop him quitting his job. But his despair stretches far beyond his personal life to a more general malaise with the state of modern Edinburgh – a city where banking has replaced shipbuilding and brewing as the primary industry and where—the tour guide lyrically proclaims—a once proud working-class identity has been eroded by creeping gentrification and consumerism.

Such is the strength of this storytelling that it is all the more confusing when the script takes a sudden U-turn, introducing the guide’s concerned children and unconvincingly veering the story towards a happy ending. It’s a disappointing end to an otherwise fascinating production, one that at the very least continues to carry the baton for innovative site-specific Fringe theatre.