Meghan Tyler brings dark comedy Crocodile Fever to the Traverse Theatre and Theatre Editor Daniel Perks considers it to be a genre-defining play. Read on to see why:

Estranged sisters, opposite sides of the same coin, return into each other’s lives with familial animosity. Fianna (Lisa Dwyer Hogg) appears as the ballsy, gutsy extrovert who has spent years in an Armagh prison; Alannah (Lucianne McEvoy) is a timid homemaker, neurotic about cleanliness and never wanting to leave the nest.

But, as is the case throughout Meghan Tyler’s astonishing show, appearances can be deceptive. In Crocodile Fever, very little is as it seems. Not least the ending, which turns a darkly comic, observational narrative into an absurdist meta-theatrical affair.

Crocodile Fever Traverse Theatre
Lisa Dwyer Hogg & Lucianne McEvoy (image courtesy of Lara Cappelli)

On paper, the epilogue to Crocodile Fever should NOT work in the slightest. It should completely throw away what is a beautifully intricate piece that combines Gareth Nicholls’ visionary direction with layered performances on Grace Smart’s realistic, homely and inviting set.

It should make a mockery of the entire production.

But Rachael Canning’s puppetry capitalises on the groundwork lain so diligently by Tyler’s script. Every aspect is precisely judged, the absurdist concept completely mad but so believable.

That final scene is the most astonishing thing about Crocodile Fever. It may be the most impressive single piece of theatre that this reviewer sees in the whole of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019.

Crocodile Fever Traverse Theatre
Lisa Dwyer Hogg (image courtesy of Lara Cappelli)

For the preceding portion of the show, a series of twisting plotlines plays tug-of-war with the sibling relationship via the common enemy of an abusive father. Sean Kearns’ Da is manipulative and conniving, a misogynistic soul who believes that women are the lesser sex with the sole purpose of serving the male of the species. Kearns uses incredible nuance and turns of phrase to pit daughter against daughter, a tactic that eventually fails through the angelic portrait of an absent Mammy (a picture cast in the faint white glow of Simon Wilkinson’s brilliant lighting design).

Crocodile Fever Traverse Theatre
Lisa Dwyer Hogg & Lucianne McEvoy (image courtesy of Lara Cappelli)

While a commendable performance, Kearns pails in comparison with the leading duo. Dwyer Hogg’s Fianna is both fearless and fearful, displaying external bravado that hides deep inner pain. Revealing such vulnerabilities over the course of the production is a gift, a treasured series of moments to witness.

And even this powerful turn as Fianna is overshadowed by sister Alannah, a pairing at its strongest when juxtaposing the two performers. McEvoy has a gift of a part. She confuses Toto’s ‘Africa’ and an apricot with wonderful naivety before undamming an inner torrent that pours forth and washes away anything in its path.

Crocodile Fever Traverse Theatre

But this power is well harnessed in McEvoy’s hands. Minute shifts signify a hidden turmoil and the Christian guilt felt at letting loose for just a split second is entrancing. If Tyler’s script is the arrow that aims for the heart of this production, McEvoy is the archer who never misses a bullseye.

Martin McDonagh’s influence is rife in Crocodile Fever.

But this is by no means The Lieutenant of Inishmore.

This is much, much more. This is genre-defining.

★★★★★

Until The Flood is now playing at Traverse Theatre until 25 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.