The first thing to say about Theatre Uncut, is that it’s not just another evening of theatre for you to go and see then forget about. Or at least it doesn’t have to be. At the Q&A, director Hannah asks more questions of the audience than she claims to be able to answer herself: “We’ve been talking about a lot of stuff. What’s the next thing I can do about it? Anyone?” Hannah is humblingly earnest, someone who can see what the big problems are, and is desperate to make a difference. A member of the crowd suggests that she is “preaching to the converted.” I look around. The crowd tonight look, by and large, like the sort of folk who enjoy a tut over The Guardian and are proudly ignorant of whatever’s happening on X-Factor. Most of us are probably quite politically aware already, well informed and doing (for the large part) nothing about it. Theatre can generally help make us feel better about ourselves, our ineffectuality, in this way. A wee cry over the disenfranchised and you can leave feeling like a good person. But there are no easy tears during any of the four new political plays this evening. It’s Brechtian in that way, stripping the drama from the individual, forcing your vision out towards the larger picture.
Theatre Uncut will be touring over the next few weeks, not only performing the plays, but making them available for free online, so that people can perform them in their own way, in their own communities. Last year, some Edinburgh folk performed the plays in a charity shop window, for example. This year, the plays begin as a list of topics, polled from online community, which writers could choose to respond to. Taken together, there is a real feeling of accessibility, that thre are not Thespians allowing you a glimpse of their talent, but a band of innovators who want yo to join them, for whom theatre is primarily a way to reach out. The set looks sort of like the Scottish parliament might, as represented by a fifties cocktail-cabinet maker, concrete grey modernest chunks off the eastern bloc, which open elegantly to reveal various props, or to store others. Both stylish and functional, the structure provides a brilliant backdrop to the pieces.
Anders Lustgarten’s Finger of God, the first play of the night, was the stand-out piece of the evening. A perfect, striking and brilliantly original piece of satire. I wish I had written it, not only for the concept but the wonderfully sharp dialogue, just fizzing with ideas and pitch-perfect characterisation. I don’t want to tell you too much about it. I just want you to go and see it. Or better, put it on yourself. Download it for free at: www.theatreuncut.com But go and see this play, you should. Ruth Gibson’s character is deliciously evil and she plays it with hypnotic panache.
And, for all Lustgarten shines, there is no play in this collection that isn’t worth seeing, I would be lying if I said that Clara Brennan’s PACHAMAMA didn’t confuse me, but it was an experimental piece of theatre bursting with the need to draw attention to all that is glaringly wrong with the world and wailing with the futility of knowing that stuff, and feeling powerless to change it. There’s a lot to like about seeing that expressed on stage but it left me asking, “ok, so what now?”
Reset everything is Inua Evan’s brilliant allegory for modern resistance, a stern warning against our own minds, a reminder of the little microcosms we build to try and defend us from life’s injustices, yet become instead lost within, loosing sight of the bigger picture, trapped in the puzzlebox of ego and society. It is also very funny. And political. And like all of these plays, up to the minute contemporary. It is also a little schmaltzy in places, but sometimes so is life, and I enjoyed it just fine, anyway.
The Most Horrific was just that. Wonderfully horrific. Faith Alabi was stellar in the role of the stand-up who really tells it like it is. Her performance is chilling, unnerving, impressive. Vivienne Frazzmann’s dialogue was so powerful that the more conceptual elements of the piece felt over-staged, unnecessary, only because the subject matter and evolving characterisation were so riveting to watch. Great stuff.
Ira Provit and The Man, despite being a little fuzzy around the edges, shows that Hayley Squires certainly knows how to write an engaging play. It becomes apparent that what we are witnessing is a battle between the Minister for Education and his conscience, played brilliantly by the young Conor Macneil, who embodies the easy passion, empathy and determined optimism of youth at it’s finest. Ira Provit is truly tormented: “Soul?” he asks. “What nonsense! I have no use for a soul.” The range of emotions Ruairi Conaghan draws from the audience is staggering. The resultant piece brims with tension.
Wonderful – FIVE STARS
Reviewer : Katie Craig