FRINGE 2019: Why you need to see… Will Duggan
Who: Will Duggan
What: Class Two
"Every decision you have ever made in your life has led you to be sat in this room right now - I can only apologise..."
Will Duggan greets everyone into the Pleasance bunker with a "Hello, how are you?" and then immediately apologises for the such a generic intro to his show. He explains that his favourite first line for anything is 1984's iconic: “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Attempting his own Orwellian opening to this largely autobiographical hour, he heralds the auspicious birth of a child with untold potential back in November 26th, 1981. He then reveals that child was Natasha Bedingfield.
It is trademark Duggan - poetic, funny and ceaselessly hard on himself. You get the sense he could actually be a very fine novelist in his own right, if he weren't so predisposed to a punchline. He goes on to explain that he was an unusual child in that he was part of a gang with four hard and fast pals who did everything together - including a memorable performance of You Are My Sunshine in a primary school assembly. The unusual bit is that he was the only one who actually existed.
The rest of the show is him wondering what his imaginary childhood friends - Dunne, Pan, Orange and Sticks - would make of him now, were they still kicking about. It's a surreal but weirdly effective premise that serves Class Two well, allowing Duggan to recount wonderfully chaotic episodes in his life that are both hilarious and utterly believable. Just when Duggan laments another calamitous situation that could only ever happen to him, a loud alarm goes off in the bunker and takes an age to identify. It is achingly apt, almost like God reminding him that he is forever destined to be dogged by such real-life farce.
Duggen is effortlessly funny. He could so easily have created a more conventional show in order to showcase his clever prose and unique perspective on life. Instead he binds the gags and misadventures into something far more poignant and satisfying. With shades of Frank Capra's bittersweet It's A Wonderful Life, Duggan explores his comical capers and melancholy lows via the help of imaginary friends. It is a show of real heart and wit.
Class Two is a brutal examination of happiness, and how the twists and turns of life can slowly erode the picture-perfect ideals we each concoct in our heads - and inevitably fuck up in reality. It's a contemplation of how childhood potential can give way to adult feelings of regret and hopelessness. The result is a work of melancholy slapstick that is truly affecting. At its end, the farewell strains of You Are My Sunshine encapsulate the tragicomic nature of this beautifully happy-sad hour.
You can buy tickets for Class Two here.