Playbill Pick: Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe | Playbill

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Playbill Goes Fringe Playbill Pick: Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Nathan Queeley-Dennis takes audiences on a sensitive and revealing journey through dating in this solo show.

Nathan Queeley-Dennis Rebecca Need-Menear

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.

Dating has, so far, left Birmingham local Nathaniel empty handed, but it's not from lack of trying. As written and performed by Nathan Queeley-Dennis, Nathaniel has elevated the planning of the perfect date well beyond picking a nice restaurant until it's quite nearly high art. The hair and the 'fit have been chosen with precision, and the selected bar isn't just a bar—it holds surprises designed to transform a fine first date into a monumental one worth telling the grandkids about.

Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz is Queeley-Dennis' playwriting debut, and one that firmly places him on a list of artists to watch—the play has already won him the 2022 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting (a prestigious U.K. drama award). Queeley-Dennis has created a warmly funny and achingly sensitive work about the search for love that feels familiar and comforting, until it ultimately reaches some unexpected notes.

Those surprises come from Nathaniel's inability to figure out just what it is he actually wants. The vulnerability begins to reveal itself underneath his veneer of masculine confidence. By his own admission, he's in a sales job he excels at even while having no interest in it—he really wants to be "a hybrid, edge, sexy kind of brum town Basquiat with a garnish of Banksy and national treasure potential of David Hockney." We also hear about his love of techno music, a genre invented by Black people only to be white-washed to the point of Nathaniel wondering why he loves it at all—to say nothing of not feeling safe going to a rave.

It's clear there's something missing in Nathaniel's life, a sort-of unspoken sadness lurking beneath the surface of his bravado. We're left wondering if this search for "that '90s R&B music-video outside-in-the-rain love" is his wisest option to fix that problem. In the meantime, Nathaniel doesn't even seem to be questioning that at all—he's too busy planning his next first date.

Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz is, in Queeley-Dennis' expert hands, endlessly charming and deceptively complex. His sensitive story is related to us via a likable but somewhat naïve narrator, complete with the lies he's telling himself and unacknowledged truths yet to be reckoned with. As directed by Dermot Daly, Queeley-Dennis adds so much between the lines in his masterful performance that he is at once winning and funny, but with an underlying sadness that's impossible to ignore. That last bit sets up the work's surprisingly moving ending, where Queeley-Dennis proves that Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz is about something deeper than the hunt for a girlfriend.

As the title implies, music factors into Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz a lot (Tom Foskett-Barnes is the sound designer and composer). Aside from Nathaniel's tricky relationship with techno, he also has a penchant for nicknaming his dates using pop star monikers. When he's stood up after chatting with a great girl online for the better part of a month, it's the song catalogue of Queen Bey that helps Nathaniel somewhat campily express his emotions. This element of Queeley-Dennis' play makes it feel fresh, relatable, and unique. Who hasn't processed some heartbreak with a weepy track or two, or 17?

Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz is not here to emphatically give us a moral or conclusion, which might be its best quality. Queeley-Dennis is focused on creating a real character and telling a genuine story, leaving his audience room to have their own reaction. The intimate play ultimately centers on one of life's quieter revelations, sneaking up on you with a surprisingly emotional punch. In Queeley-Dennis' hands, we learn that those quiet moments are where we often find the most profound truths.

Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz runs at ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall through August 27. For tickets, click here. The production features design by Caitlin Mawhinney and lighting by David Doyle.

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