The Flanagan Collective – Fable

Fable is a story about two people meeting, but is mostly told through monologues. It opens on a non-sequitur, and then shifts into an enthusiastic anti-consumerist diatribe, before settling in to minutely detail the backstory of its main character, Jay. All the while, the actors are accompanied by a slow-strumming guitar, and the odd bit of sampling, with the occasional slide projection thrown up behind them.

This is sparse, meandering and atmospheric theatre – a bit too meandering, perhaps, although I can't particularly fault that. I feel like, with its title, the show was preparing me for the possibility, and the meandering took me to interesting places.

Jay is a woman in her twenties who, due to a congenital heart condition, is not able to venture out into the world and must instead live out most of her life indoors, experiencing the world through the filter of the computer screen. But she nevertheless yearns to become an astronaut, and to venture out into the stars.

At around the half-way mark, we are properly introduced to Blair – a rugged, unkempt tree surgeon, who Jay meets through the unlikely-named (but nevertheless quite real) website uniformdating.com. And it is through their conversations that the play really gets underway.

These two characters have very different philosophies, but, refreshingly, they are not forced into opposition with one another. Fable does not deal in laboured dichotomies, and instead we get to see their worldviews contrast, conflict, flex, and sometimes concur.

Jay is a dreamer raised on Sagan's brand of humanist positivism – only well too aware of her body's limitations, which are not magical but debilitating, she nevertheless seeks to transcend them. In this respect she is the poster-child transhumanist, hoping to escape her own humanity, which she can only do so by frog-leaping nature in something akin to a Rapture of the nerds.

Blair, meanwhile, only wants to fell trees, and build log cabins from them where they fall. But his plans are frustrated by the bureaucrats who control the planning permissions, so he must also escape humanity by retreating into nature and to the corners of the earth.

In Fable we get something like the meeting of the new gods and the old, on the far West Coast of Scotland, bonding over their shared distaste for humanity and their mutual curiosity towards nature. It's a fleeting and soulful encounter, but a profound one that just might leave you a bit stunned.

★★★½