A male photographer is photographing a female celebrity who is tired of being so superficial. She wants this photo shoot to show her “true self”. She wants to be “real”, and we’re all hanging out in the studio with them in Action Hero’s Wrecking Ball. Audience expectations are immediately challenged on entry when invited to grab a beer from a cooler onstage, and this boundary remains blurred for the duration. Communication is attempted between the two characters, but neither is really listening and what they say doesn’t really have any meaning, pointedly ironic in characters striving for stripped back honestly. The performance is both funny and uncomfortable as the audience watches their professional relationship cross into the manipulative personal. This is a text-based performance with imagery rich language highlighting the absurdity of their encounter, but it triggers a good amount of reflection on our own behaviour. We all carefully construct our images, particularly in social media, yet at the same time we want to be genuine (whatever that means). This is an excellent, polished piece that is provocative in subject and the actor-audience relationship.
Search Party’s My Son & Heir is without question the funniest thing I’ve seen this year in Edinburgh. Real-life couple Pete Phillips and Jodie Hawkes playfully examine the prospects of their young son, born in the same year as ‘baby Cambridge.’ The two little boys have little in common, though. Pete and Jodie share their hopes for their son in a cheerful, pink chaos that soon disintegrates into relentless judgments on their parenting methods and a stream of ‘what ifs’ capturing the anxiety and pressure to raise a perfect child. The message evokes sympathy and reflection, even from those without children. It’s an outstanding blend of comedy and social commentary on the perils of being an ordinary parent without heaps of cash to throw at your child. Their gleeful, child-like anarchy quickly turns vicious, creating pointed contrast between the haves and have-nots, but ends in a message of love. Perhaps the ending tends towards sentimental, but in a world where money is a large factor in success and a good life, it is also an ending of hope.
Last up is Christopher Brett Bailey’s This Is How We Die, a spoken word and music performance that is deceptively simple but leaves you with overloaded senses and a feeling of having traveled around the world at a million miles a second. When I first saw This Is How We Die at Battersea Arts Centre several months ago, I was so moved that I wrote two responses: an immediate visceral reaction that probably isn’t particularly well written followed by a reasoned review. I wanted to experience this piece in a smaller space, and Forest Fringe did not disappoint. Bailey’s delivery was more intimate and personal, and sitting in the front row was a full-blast experience. This piece isn’t for everyone, though. A couple of people walked out, and responses have been polarized; you either love this piece or you hate it.
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