Grotty, Bunker Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

At 22 years old, Rigby is a troubled, naive lesbian navigating the dating and club scene where everyone knows everyone else. The awkward, bumbling young woman just wants to get fucked and fucked up at the weekends – but between the nasty gossip and incomprehensible social politics, her good intentions are exploited. Though this stark, unsentimental view of the London queer scene has moments of comedy and poignancy, the rambling script lacks a focused and coherent journey.

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Electric Eden, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Tommy Eden, a pensioner with a love for street performing since he retired, is dead. Local entrepreneur Alexander Sheldon’s security guards are responsible. Sheldon didn’t like Tommy performing outside his high end spa and leisure centre, but when the guards manhandled him off his patch, Tommy’s 87-year-old body couldn’t take it. Local young people, angry at the rapid gentrification of their town and the death of a local treasure, organise a protest/party in the abandoned club across the road, and everyone’s invited.

Not Too Tame’s Electric Eden doesn’t manage to deliver much of a party, though. Shouty political slogans and several under-developed subplots give a vague picture of a bigger problem, and staging choices fight against the attempted audience immersion. The concept promises a dynamic execution, but the delivery disappoints.

Seven characters at the party are featured, including organiser Greg (Andrew Butler) and Tommy Eden’s granddaughter, Grace (Louise Haggerty). Their stories, as well as those of the other five characters, are gradually presented through disconnected scenes in between dance numbers and party games. The audience are sometimes invited to join the dancing, other songs are tightly choreographed.

An exposition of protest rhetoric delivered down a mic, petition signing and ordering drinks from the bar is too long. Each of the characters’ individual stories only gets a couple of scenes, so they come across as generic snapshots of character types rather than real people.

The audience are provided with chairs so even though director Jimmy Fairhurst wants to create a party atmosphere, inevitably the majority of the audience end up sitting and watching for the entire performance. Choosing a club as a venue adds little with such a clear distinction between the actors and the audience, and the continuous reiteration that this is a party comes across as forced and false.

The performances are fine and there’s some tight choreography, though this also feels out of place with the attempts to create an anarchic/punk atmosphere. Electric Eden tries to be both a genuine party and a play, but the two aesthetics are so diametrically opposed that neither ends up working within the piece.

The whole experience is frustratingly flat, though it shows such promise on paper. With a script overhaul and a clear vision as to what Electric Eden wants to achieve, it would be a stronger piece. As is, it comes across as a confused and undeveloped piece.

Electric Eden runs through 29th August.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Rave Space, Camden People’s Theatre

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A few hours before the start of the New Year, I found myself alone in a dark room in Battersea Arts Centre with two DJs, Will Dickie and Jeremiah Isaacs. The encounter was intimate, revealing and brief. Twenty minute long The Resolution Studio recorded individual participants’ resolutions for 2016, created a signature dance move, and the two djs and their audience of one had a quick groove session before rejoining the venue’s party. Though I felt self conscious at being the sole centre of these two artists’ attention, it was an event that stuck with me the past few months.

When I received an invitation to Camden People’s Theatre festival Sprint 2016 closing show, Will Dickie’s latest work Rave Space, I jumped at the opportunity to experience more of his work. With The Resolution Studio captivating me with Dickie’s charisma and sensuality for such a short time, I couldn’t resist the offer of an hour-long rave and text hybrid piece in the basement of CPT. I left confused and disappointed, though. There are definitely some wonderful aspects of Rave Space­. Interaction, dance and music meld to make a gig theatre piece with some audience autonomy, but with an actual runtime closer to 90 minutes and lengthy, muddled sequences of text and contemporary dance that only tenuously fit together (if at all), this new piece is much in need of further development.

One-by-one entry, whilst it adds atmosphere and interaction, takes a long time as we each have to ID ourselves and receive a hand stamp. Once we’re in, we can peruse the tiny stations with LED signs, turntables, and random objects assembled like shrines in the corners of the room. Some people are given laser pointers. It’s mysterious, cryptic and exciting, though there isn’t much to actually do or engage with. People are chatting, performers/stewards in hi-vis pepper the space and it feels like a gig is about to start rather than a theatre piece. There are no chairs, and it’s late. The lengthy build-up creates buzz and excitement, but what follows is an anticlimax.

When the music starts, spinning from a pentagonal structure in the middle of the space, a few people get really into it, most others bob heads, some don’t join in at all. That’s ok because there’s no judgement, but watching other people have a great time can be dull. Spoken text over a mic and pre-recorded monologues eventually kick in, but there is a detachment from the music, even though the content is often about music or rave culture. There’s no through-line or any justification for pairing that particular music with those text extracts. Comparing rave culture with the experience of going to church is the most interesting proposal, but it is not investigated further. Also disconnected from any of the topics discussed in the sections of text are sequences of contemporary dance in various styles, including what looks like Butoh. Though a display of adept, emotive physicality akin to a Rodin statue coming to life, these are also detached from everything that has occurred so far.

Though the concept of creating a piece that incorporates rave culture with performance is an excellent one, Will Dickie’s execution leaves much to be desired. There is no denying his charisma and talent, but Rave Space needs to consider its aims and its audience as it grows.

Rave Space was a one-off event at Sprint 2016.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.