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The Man Who Would Be King (Edinburgh Fringe)

Dawn State's debut production tackles Rudyard Kipling's classic novella

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When it was published, The Man Who Would Be King was described by J. M. Barrie as "the most audacious thing in fiction." It has since been referenced countless times in pop culture including a song of the same name by indie band The Libertines and the 1975 film starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine. It is hard to believe Rudyard Kipling's novella has only just made it to the stage, some 126 years later.

It is Dawn State, a fledgling theatre company making their debut with this production, who have taken it upon themselves to adapt the classic story of two soldiers, disillusioned with the fortunes their current posting offers them, who journey to an area in north Afghanistan with the intention of befriending and then ruling the unsuspecting locals.

This production, wonderfully adapted and directed by Dan Coleman, is set in modern day Afghanistan and begins where the novel culminates, with one of the soldiers, Peachey Carnehan (Dan Nicholson), suffering from sunstroke after their epic adventure. Carnehan has returned to the location where he and fellow soldier Daniel Dravot (Christopher Birks) left off several years earlier and is forced by an officer (also played by Birks) to tell all. It is in this context that the two actors assume their roles and play out the story of how the pair came to be Kings of Kafiristan.

There are many plays at the Fringe in which actors take on multiple characters, some less successfully than others, but Dan Coleman's script and fluid direction provides Nicholson and Birks the perfect vehicle for their ebullient and adroit performances. A great start from this new company and I, for one, look forward to seeing what they do next year.

The Man Who Would Be King runs at Zoo until 25 August.

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