Shows in unorthodox spaces are a staple delight of the Fringe, and this year we have Mobile, performed to a tiny audience in a caravan parked up beside the Warren. The caravan doesn't actually go anywhere; the play is about being "socially mobile", and it's based around interviews with a group of men and women who've achieved that much-vaunted goal. Each is wealthier, better-connected, and better-educated than their parents – and each feels a sense of conflict now, proud of their roots yet sensing that somehow they've moved on. It's an awkward subject to tackle but it's also an intriguing one, addressing a facet of the British class system which both policy-makers and newspaper column-writers tend to ignore.
We learn most of the stories through recorded interviews, but one – the one which anchors them together – is told by an actor who joins us in the van. The role's played by a rotating cast; at the performance I attended we had Olivia Birchenough, who built a convincing image of a bubbly but thoughtful young woman who's acutely aware of the journey she's on. She's living here now, in her mum's caravan, but what is it that's keeping her here? Loyalty, perhaps… or pride?
There's only one actor in Mobile, but there are two stars. The other is the caravan itself, together with the hidden technician who operates it; its cubbyholes and cupboards hide numerous tricks, which I have no intention whatever of spoiling. I'll just say that it's a genuinely multi-sensory experience, not without humour, which sees certain objects take on the personalities of people they represent. The technical wizardry is genuinely impressive – and the synchronisation with the live performance is faultlessly planned.
It's a short play – I reckon we spent about 35 minutes inside the caravan, though there's a prelude outside as well – but it's perfectly formed, with an elegant recurring metaphor about space travel neatly reflecting the experience of leaving your upbringing behind. Birchenough made the atmosphere welcoming, even passing biscuits around, and a few well-judged moments of audience interaction make this feel like a shared discovery rather than the preachy lecture it could have been.
There are no straightforward answers to the questions posed by Mobile, but that's not really the point of this show. It's a pure experience – an opportunity to close the door on your personal reality, and spend some time inhabiting a slightly different world. The tricks and gimmicks are a lot of fun, but they're all there in service of a closely-argued premise. One not to miss this Fringe.