Actor Michael Phillip Edwards figured the greatest thing he would do this summer would be getting himself to Scotland to perform his one-man show in Edinburgh’s massive and renowned Festival Fringe. Edwards‘ show, Runt, had a slot there and the backing of a producer here, but the actor had to scrape together funds on which to live for six weeks once he landed in the U.K. Not only did Edwards wind up getting by, he thrived in the way he least imagined: Runt won a coveted Fringe First award — one of only six plays in 2,400 to do so — and was the first solo show by a black artist to achieve that distinction. Now Edwards and his producer, Michael Blaha, are fielding offers to do the show in Chicago at Steppenwolf Theater, in New York at off-Broadway’s Mosaic Theater, in Australia at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and the BBC is interested in developing a radio version. Not bad for an absorbing autobiographical show in which Edwards casts himself not as a top dog, like his driven and imperious father, but as a runt who doubts first and eats last.
“But what I realized in Edinburgh is that this is about a hero‘s journey,” says the 34-year-old actor, who is originally from Jamaica and performed Runt in bits and pieces in theaters around Los Angeles as he worked up the full-length version. “The hero sets out, he goes through trials, he emerges. In the end, it’s about how not to wallow in your own mud.”
Critics responded enthusiastically to Runt‘s universal themes of love and antiheroism. The Scotsman called it a “powerfully written play, matched by a mightily sustained performance.” Another reviewer dubbed it “poetry without doubt.” Yet for all the crowds Runt has attracted, “Actually,” says Edwards, “I would do this play in an empty room.”