George Dillon is one of those names that only true Edinburgh regulars will know. Celebrating his 21st anniversary as a solo performer this year, Dillon has taken on a typically gruelling schedule, with a record six shows playing across the city. He has enjoyed a long and healthy association with Steven Berkoff, and this premiere, detailing the tumultuous life and career of one, Harry, sees both on top form.
Throughout Graft, in which Dillon has to do just that, we are treated to a multitude of stories, anecdotes, and rants: the overwhelming elation of acceptance into drama school, the frustration of relationships, learning to cope with the pain of rejection, the preparation for crucial auditions and roles, self-perception and awareness, the difficulty of making ends meet, and approaching the end of your career.
Many actors had filled up the rows behind me - most from Berkoff's Oedipus at the Pleasance - and were reacting tellingly; knowing chuckles, groaning sighs, and stunned silences, suggesting Berkoff had hit many theatrical nails squarely on the head.
Needless to say, Dillon is superbly compelling. At turns mocking, affectionate, witty, acerbic, and aggressive, his performance is never less than truthful and revelatory, a lyrically brutal monologue which does not only illuminate the many joys of the profession, but also the crushing blows encountered by so many along the path to success.
Dillon is best at driving the narrative forward, but although the frantically exaggerated act suits the piece, it can become a little tiresome. Saying that, he hardly stumbles once, defiantly ploughing through the dense and wordy speeches with gusto and a mock pretentiousness that elicits much laughter.
Graft can appear a tad thin in places and to my mind, cannot compare with some of Berkoff's earlier work, but there is no doubt that a bravura turn from Dillon makes this almost an unmissable afternoon at Merchants' Hall.