Theatre Review: Trying It On (Birmingham REP)


Trying It On
David Edgar
Birmingham REP

Reviewer: Georgia Kelly

David Edgar has been writing plays for over thirty years. Now, with his latest work Trying It On he finally takes to the stage himself. Edgar performs his mostly autobiographical show as himself and leads us through the turbulent times of the late ’60s and ’70s; the politics, the activism, the revolution – and what he was doing instead.

Somewhere between an immersive analysis of changing social values and your dad having a go at stand up in the living room (or attic study) Trying It On is both warming and insightful. A keen observation of how those who once stood vehemently for the left can come to have their minds changed, and the fear that it could happen to us just as easily. From close friends to subjects of admiration, anyone can be swayed it seems as we meet friends and colleagues of Edgar’s through interviews on their adventures in making theatre to bring to the working class, feminism and LGBT+ issues being seen as a ‘distraction’ from the socialist cause, and the changes they really did achieve.

It’s not all doom and gloom, see. Not all Thatcher and miners, strikes and protests, or boomers vs millennials. Edgar’s charm shines through with kind reminders of how far we’ve come and a positive stance on how far we still need to go. Trying It On is an endearing introspection about one man”s rise through trying times who, despite his mammoth body of work, social and political activism, and unwavering focus on the issues facing the working class, is a bit afraid he was just self-righteous the whole time. Edgar as himself is endearing and unabashedly self-conscious about his fears he didn’t really change all that much at all. Despite this being far from the truth it’s refreshing to see someone of Edgar’s generation standing up and accepting that no, they weren’t perfect, and have created problems for this generation as well as solved some. Trying It On seems to say that whilst we can be proud of the social and political achievements of the last 50 years, we aren’t done yet.

A personal and positive unpacking of what it means to side with the left and with the working class, Trying It On leaves us with a sense of hope not often found in other works about our own turbulent times.

Trying It On is on at the Birmingham REP from 12th – 13th June.