Review: Four Woke Baes (Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh)

Jonathan Caren’s piece puts relationships under the spotlight during a seemingly innocent camping trip

Four Woke Baes
Four Woke Baes
© Karla Gowlett

Four men on a stag-do sail some way up s**t creek in Four Woke Baes, Jonathan Caren's nimble and constantly entertaining dark comedy which runs at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The piece follows four friends who embark on a seemingly innocent river-rafting adventure ahead of groom-to-be Dez's nuptials. Due to a very plausible mix-up, they pitch their tents on the camping site of a mysterious kayaking stranger Emma. As their night progresses, beer is drunk, smores are burned and innate masculine prejudices of the four blokes is brought to the fore while Emma quizzes and probes their lives.

What Caren balances is witty rumination and well-pitched plot twists, catalysing the various strands of gendered debate, deepening paranoia and creating a genuinely entertaining hour. A lot of the piece flirts with a major "love is dead" vibe, but it's a welcome breath of cynicism that cuts through cutesiness and explores the real, psychological problems of commitment.

The cast of five transcend what could have easily become cipher roles, each giving something wilfully human to their roles. Because as anyone on a stag-do or bachelorette party will tell you, a lot of the experience is about the faux-positivity, the slightly staggered smile, the underlying sickly optimism. It means when searing reality comes crashing into the copse its impact is even more keenly felt.

Noah Bean hits the "everyman" vibe squarely on the head as Dez, while Lyndsy Fonseca brings an enigmatic bluntness to Emma, delivering clinically monotone insights into the flaws of the four men she's found herself with.

It may not push the boat out (so to speak) as much as it might aspire to, but you'll find few naturalistic plays at the Fringe as slickly delivered as Teddy Bergman's production.