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Brighton Fringe 2013


Old Saw

Genre: Drama

Venue: Upstairs at Three and Ten


Low Down

A sci-fi monolgue exploring a dystopian future where difference has been banished and eradicated.


This fifty minute monologue, penned by Greta Clough, directed by Jessica Beck, and performed with precision and intensity by Katie Villa makes excellent use of the Upstairs at Three and Ten intimate space.
"In the future only one race of man exists. The birth of a genetic anomaly leads on woman to discover the truth about the society in which she lives." As the once co-author of a book on diversity and difference I was interested to see what, if any, new issues and questions Maggot would throw up. I’m also the partner of a midwife and so, a play that explores aspects of birth in a dystopian future drew me to the Three and Ten.
Over the years, science function theatre has been more miss than hit. In Maggot we enter a more genetically vanilla world in which DNA can be called heretical. The small stage at Three and Ten is the challenge for Old Saw to bring authentic and believable sci fi drama to the Brighton Fringe audience. So, to what extent do they succeed ?
This is the cold blue light of a scientific future. A world in which genes in a jar shape the world’s population. A world redolent of 1984 and Equilibrium. Difference is criminal, the stuff of taboo fantasy.
This is a dark future, a world where the metaphor of the insect prevails, a place where genetic anomaly is alien. It is also a place where science has deadened feeling into rationality, and where deeper, primeval urges are unsuccessfully suppressed.
The vision is not new but is cleverly realised in this project and the language is often dark, tending towards the language abomination. New mythologies have emerged and the unity of earth is to be found in the equality of sameness. This is delivered with much skill by the sole performer, Katie Villa.
Will eugenics come to be the norm? Here is a world where such s vision is made real and diversity is abhorred. Yet is it in the contrast provided by difference that we truly find knowledge of ourselves ?
The writing serves the scenario well and, as drama, it feels a little static at first. Yet it is intriguing material that inhabits this shadow picture with a lot of commitment to intensity.
The visual form of this future has been imaginatively realised and I can’t fault the vocal delivery. But I wonder if people in this future would speak and use idiom so similar to today ? There’s scope here to explore a transmutation of even language itself.
I was impressed with the economy of staging and the sharpness of the text and its core ideas and adult themes. The monologue is held with precision and poise by the performer. The sound and musical backdrop is perfectly placed and creates a skilful thread between primeval past and dark future. This is a future in which scientism has achieved correctness yet lost rightness.
The core style is storytelling behind a neutral mask, perfectly matched to the content of this vision of the future. Yet it requires us to catch the sound of the words as we have no facial clues. To keep us attentive the vocal delivery must be mature, subtle and well paced. And it is.
There’s a bareness to this piece that serves it well. Strong and basic in staging I was very impressed. Echoes also of Mary Shelly and a Poe-sequence feel to the eloquent narrative. I do think there’s scope for a better balance between monologue and physical movement.When there is some physicality it feels a bit bolted onto the stiller monologue.

Yet overall this theatrical experiment in the genre of science fiction theatre has succeeded. There’s a stark world created here in just fifty minutes, a world I sincerely wish never comes about.  Ultimately equality isn’t the compulsion to all be the same, but the right to be different. Disturbing, as all good visionary theatre should be. 


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