by Meredith Jones Russell
Crocodile Fever is a shocking, staggering, darkly hilarious play which comes into its own in its second, bizarre half.
The first 45 minutes or so, which sees IRA rebel Fianna Devlin return to her childhood home in South Armagh via a smashed in kitchen window to be reunited with her pious older sister Alannah, are relatively unremarkable. Peppered with quickfire, hilarious, foul-mouthed dialogue, this section sees the two sisters straight back at each other’s throats, reliving the incident which saw Fianna banged up for eight years. They disagree over their memories of great 80s music as well as their beloved mother and abusive father. The more they drink, the more unpredictable they become. When Fianna realises their tyrant of a father is still alive and controlling Alannah’s every move from his room upstairs, she takes matters into her own hands.
What follows is a deliciously deranged, wildly bonkers 45 minutes of violence, vengeance and the rediscovery of the strength of sisterhood. It wouldn’t do to give too much away, but Grace Smart’s set design and Rachel Canning’s use of puppetry come into their own in a quite outrageous, weirdly wonderful way.
Seldom have I heard so many awed gasps in a theatre; humour is mixed with shock and even some disgust. It’s certainly not for the faint-hearted, but the show’s simultaneous skewering of the patriarchy, the Church, the Army, and conflict and oppression in general, is exhilarating and empowering, and defies even the most easily offended not to leap from their seats in support of the wild Devlin women. Absolute carnage, and absolutely not to be missed.
Crocodile Fever runs through 25 August in Edinburgh.
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