EDINBURGH FRINGE 2015 - WRAP #2

Various Fringe venues, Edinburgh, Scotland

01/08/2015 - 31/08/2015

Edinburgh Fringe 2015

Production Details



Cleansed by Sarah Kane 
Presented by Fear No Colours 
C-Nova, Main Hall
www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/cleansed  

Labels 
Writer & performer: Joe Sellman-Leava
Pleasance Courtyard, Bunker One
www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/labels

Heartbeats and Algorithms 
Jenny Lee
Pleasance courtyard
www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/heartbeats-and-algorithms

Garden 
Lucy Grace 
Pleasance Courtyard, venue 33 
www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/garden 

Wilting in Reverse 
Stuart Bowden
Underbelly, Cowgate
www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/stuart-bowden-wilting-in-reverse



Theatre ,


Visceral and powerful | Important truths | Terrifying then affirming | Admirable and charming | The best I've ever seen

Review by Sarah Tuck 03rd Sep 2015

Cleansed by Sarah Kane 
Presented by Fear No Colours 
C-Nova, Main Hall 
4/5 stars

Sarah Kane’s plays are infamously known for their deeply disturbing and unsettling content, which Kane states is derived from the newspapers without ‘all the boring bits’.  

Cleansed, Sarah Kane’s third play, explores devotion, suffering, control and love. Fear No Colours live up to the expectations and perform a very visceral and unsettling take on this dark text.

We are invited into the small intimate space to the ensemble cast of seven warming up on stage. A minimalist black box design with soft blue lighting creates a stark basement setting that absorbs us into the dark, dystopian world of the play. The play sees violence, relationships, drug intakes and amputations controlled by sadist Tinker towards the characters trapped in the institution.

All performers should be congratulated on what a massive feat of a show this is and what they put themselves through, physically and emotional during each performance (of a three week season.) Collectively, they all give a heart-wrenching performance. Notably, Raymond Wilson who plays a very convincing and truly tragic Robin, particularly in the gruelling scene when Tinker manipulates him to eat a whole box of chocolates. Another notable performance is Samuel Skoog as Rod who displays immersive physicality, and committing 100% to the action.  His body physically bounces across the stage as he screeches in pain – your instinct is to look away but it’s so visually stunning, you can’t help but watch.

Fear No Colours, a new production company from Glasgow, creates a truly visceral and powerful ensemble piece of work. 

Labels 
Writer & performer: Joe Sellman-Leava
Pleasance Courtyard, Bunker One 
4/5 stars

Labels is an autobiographical account of the one man performer, Joe Sellman-Leava’s English upbringing and his personal experiences with explicit everyday racism. Joe, who identifies as English, has been constantly questioned about where he is from’because his skin colour shows he “ain’t English”. While the question, “Where are you from?” is “nothing malicious” and appears quite harmless, it has contributed and influenced the essence of his show Labels which asks in turn: why are we so obsessed with labelling people?

Joe delivers a high energy, engaging performance that offers a wide range of accents, physicality, facial expressions and theatricality around his personal experiences. He maintains a confident and charming rapport with the audience, guiding us through his traumatic experiences.

He starts off by putting sticky labels on a certain few – man, woman, friend, enemy – before covering himself in what he has been labelled by the rest of society. He provides a conversational rather than lecturing tone with the audience, about his university days and making friends, his family history and their struggles in England with an Indian last name, derogatory labels thrown at him for no apparent reason and an ugly side of Tinder. His tone allows us to connect further and initiate our own response and solution outside of the performance.

This play represents the experience of most people of colour. It highlights that even though society’s race relations have progressed significantly, it is still a very prominent social issue that has a long way to go. Everyone has a story. Everyone has experiences. This show is important as it provides a truthful account, reminding us how labels and small comments contribute to everyday racism.

Heartbeats and Algorithms 
Jenny Lee
Pleasance courtyard 
4/5 Stars 

Heartbeat and Algorithms is a fast-paced, stoic, one-woman show with nothing else carrying the piece but Jenny Lee. Without moving any muscle but her mouth in the first 30 minutes, she manages to keep us completely entranced by her fast paced and incredibly compelling story-telling.

The monologue style piece follows Banks, a computer programmer who creates an algorithm that can predict precise actions and behaviours of one person based on data. Being the subject and test of her own algorithm, it turns into an unsettling and surprising journey to conquer it.

The play gets increasingly intense and spirals down a web path of Bank’s day to day life at work, home and online communications. On realising she has become predictable and boring, she begins to do things out of the ordinary like order different food for lunch and take part in casual dress Fridays, to trick the algorithm. But when it predicts that she will do something unpredictable she has an existential crisis and can’t take back her own creation.

Jenny’s script is very cleverly written and flows nicely into a surprising conclusion. It is loaded with tech references and complicated algorithmic jargon – which shouldn’t put you off. It is completely understandable and relatable and we find ourselves hypnotised into Bank’s rhythmic robotic, Siri-like tone. The combination of her computer-generated delivery with more humane references, like her secret fondness for Taylor Swift, adds a surprising humorous element which is maintained throughout.

Computer science and algorithms are an advanced, alien concept for most. On one hand it seems so far-fetched, absurd and placed in a fictional world, on the other it is incredibly realistic and prevalent. It is terrifying to be told this is actually possible in our life time, if not now then only a few years away.

Heartbeat and Algorithms speaks clearly of the anxieties and fears we have about how fast technology is advancing and how much we rely on it. Luckily, the play comes to a surprising and affirming conclusion that proves how powerful and important real human interaction is in a society so heavily influenced by the digital age.

Garden 
Lucy Grace 
Pleasance Courtyard, venue 33  
3/5 stars 

Garden, written and performed by Lucy Grace, is about a girl not quite living the dream in London. Commuting for hours to her office job, dressed in business attire, she actually longs for freedom and nature. After she witnesses her unpleasant work colleague mistreat the office plant, she takes it home to her apartment on the 24th floor to nourish it. 

Deciding not to go back to work after her boss grills her for not thinking about ‘the grand scheme of things’, she does a late night mission stealing cuttings from plants, detaches herself from outside life and revamps her modern apartment into a garden paradise.  

Lucy’s fast-paced performance is intelligent, witty and stressed. It perfectly embodies the anxieties that come with living in a big city and working a job that goes against everything you want to do. Fighting against your urban environment to just feel calm within the ‘grand scheme if things’. Employing a large range of facial expressions, Lucy is very watchable and charmingly funny.

Incorporating the set into her choreography, the stage suddenly blooms and delightfully transforms from dull office space to a garden. Pot plants come out from the draws, dirt spreads over the stage, vines hang down the cabinet: it’s a highlight to see the set interacted with and used to its fullest capacity.

Other than making me think twice about the work environments we force ourselves to be in, and the fact I haven’t watered my plants today, I’m not entirely sure how we are meant to feel at the end. Overall, the performance is admirable, charming and Lucy has a wonderful vocal clarity and a knack for storytelling.

Wilting in Reverse 
Stuart Bowden
Underbelly, Cowgate 
5/5 stars

We are introduced to an actor explaining that we are here in this moment to bring Stuart Bowden back to life. The actor (who is actually played by Stuart Bowden) reads out a set of instructions, written by Stuart Bowden before he’s died. It plays out in reverse order, so it doesn’t lead us up to but takes us back from his death, and Stuart Bowden is getting younger.

Wilting in Reverse is meta-theatricality at its best. A performance within a performance, crafted in most intelligent way I have ever experienced.

Stuart Bowden has an intricate art for casting the audience – of course, it’s all outlined in the script that he reads out, but for some reason we can’t help but want to participate in the reverse journey.  Performing as an actor working through this script for the first time, his nervous performance is endearing, quirky and very present. His nervousness makes us trust him immediately as it reflects the audience’s anxieties about getting up on stage. Seeing the performer and audience all follow the script for the first time together makes an interesting dynamic where audience and actor are (quite literally) on the same page.

The performance is quirky with a unique comic delivery that keeps the audience laughing the whole way through. He accompanies the script with musical interludes that he composes live on stage with a keyboard, ukulele and a loop. The music brings out most of the emotion, creates a somber atmosphere at times, and most of the time is filled with humorous poetic lyrics.

What makes this show the best I’ve ever seen is the craft of how the performance come full circle. In the beginning, he shares his dream of ‘this moment’ where a chorus of people does his specific dance (which he demonstrates upon entering), to this music (which he sets up shortly after) and acknowledges he can’t possibly do that because there is only one performer. But at the end of the piece we see ‘this moment’, intricately set up by Stuart Bowden and executed by the audience.

It makes for a beautiful community environment within the show, breaking down the fourth wall, proving the audience should always be integral to the action and really is the most important aspect of the show.

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