Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 17 August: Part One

Today should have been a great day. A morning show in Summerhall, a venue that consistently stages innovative work, followed by an afternoon play affectionately looking at a topic I very much relate to. Both Current Location by FellSwoop Theatre and Waitless by Cailin Harrison have some good ideas and individual moments, but individual production elements don’t quite fit together to form a cohesive whole.

Current Location is an adaptation of the Japanese play by Toshiki Okada, set in a coastal village, presumably in England, with a minimalist script and design. It feels quite Scandinavian (which suits the simile I will use shortly). Four women anxiously rehearse for a performance, then another arrives who disrupts the natural chemistry of the group. She is soaked from a sudden downpour from the blue, “bad luck cloud” that recently appeared over the village. Its appearance effects the entire population: animals are behaving strangely and people are no longer talking to each other. Rumours abound of a coming disaster; the women we see are split – some believe them, others don’t. As the play progresses, climate change intensifies as does character conflict. Some believe nature will soon cause the village to disappear, others refuse that it’s a possibility.

The premise and climate change message are certainly interesting, but the execution doesn’t make sufficient impact. There is no set and no stage lights, and the room is too big for this intimate piece. The traverse staging and naturalistic performance style chosen by director Bertrand Lesca causes lines to be completely lost if the performers’ backs are to the audience. Some vital moments were missed completely because they couldn’t be heard. It is a frustrating experience that would work better on film. The classical score that accompanies, whilst beautiful, also doesn’t improve the volume issue. Despite the naturalistic performance, the actors sit in the audience when they are off stage (sometimes), creating an inconsistent style.

The production rather reminded me of Ikea. Minimalist Scandinavian design, looks great on paper, but once constructed it doesn’t hold up very well. Other than the volume, the performances are good and character arguments are satisfying explosions of pent up frustration. Florence (Caitlin Ince) is the leader of the bunch who violently insists on maintaining the staus quo and that the village will be fine, of course. Hannah (Pia Laborde Noguez) is the late arriving disruptor who is quickly dealt with. The other three, Eva (Charlotte Allan), Jayne (Emma Keaveney Roys) and Elisabeth (Roisin Kelly), capture the uncertainly of a world on the brink of disaster. A script of five female roles is certainly commendable but their microcosmic conflicts don’t carry the gravitas of a major world issue. Like a piece of Ikea furniture that’s full of promise in the catalogue, it is disappointingly insubstantial and the component parts don’t quite fit together properly once out of the package and assembled.

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