A story that spans the globe performed by two actors, told almost entirely in a language that people may think is invented and with only a thousand pieces of cardboard for the set. On paper, The Ice Hole – A Cardboard Comedy, sounds like a pastiche or a parody of every daft idea that has ever found its way on to a small stage at the fringe playing to no-one and only ever likely to be remembered if one of its cast should ever become famous and appear on Would I Lie to You? And yet, the finished product is a piece of pure genius that is unlikely to be bettered at this or any other Fringe for a considerable length of time.
The creation of Pierre Guillois and Olivier Martin-Salvan, who previously brought the surprise smash hit Fishbowl to the Fringe in 2019, the play outstrips even that production for invention, originality and innovation.
Beginning in the Fjords of Iceland, a man (played in this performance by Jonathan Pinto-Rocha) sits by the frozen water that is represented by a cardboard box that he then breaks a hole in using a cardboard sledgehammer, that he initially thought to be a sledge until another man (played this time by Grégoire Lagrange), wearing only swimming trunks, revealed the second word on the card. Shortly after dropping a can of Coke that he will miss for most of the play into the water, he hooks a mermaid, played by the man in the swimming trunks whose lower half is now wrapped in cardboard.
After he loses her, he sets out on a trip that will take him to Scotland, the rest of the UK, mainland Europe and briefly into California and the set of a well known 90s TV show. He encounters storms, bagpipe players, amorous shop owners and more, alongside being accused of murder, attacked by an aircraft and a whole lot of other things you’re unlikely to see combined into most 75 minute shows. And he does all of this while barely moving, or saying anything that makes any real sense.
In contrast, Lagrange covers every square inch of the stage at a speed that the word frantic comes nowhere close to describing. He works his way through all of the pieces of cardboard, using some of them as words, some as scenery, and others as animals, weather or weapons.
From start to finish it is a masterclass in writing. movement, acting and directing, with every individual element of the production coming together to create something that continues to build and get more absurd and amusing at every turn. Recurring musical and visual themes are used to provide a narrative that drive the story forward and make sure there is a start, middle and end to the surreal madness on display.
This has to be the must-see show of Edinburgh Fringe 2023.
Runs until 28 August 2023