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Edinburgh Fringe 2009

Certain Dark Things

You Need Me

Venue: Big Belly, Underbelly


Low Down

You Need Me’s Certain Dark Things is the height of storytelling excellence. Cast devised, this piece shows great cohesiveness and feels whole and strong.  Despite the story being the age old look at forbidden love, its organic use of ensemble work conveys a powerful and unforgettable story in a touching, original and poignant way.


The audience sit in the round with the performers moving in and out of the tiny space fluidly and without fuss. The story looks at a highly charged illegal sexual relationship set in the first half in Bilbao in 1959 during Franco’s dictatorship with the oppression of Basque culture taking centre stage.   The space is small despite having access to the whole upper level of Big Belly, they have chosen quite wisely to use half the space making the show an intimate and highly charged experience.

You Need Me’s diversely mixed culture ensemble (powerfully manages to capture within the space the sense of danger and sick fear the Basque people might have felt during this time. The focus is on one family with the son struggling with his blossoming sexuality that doesn’t comply with Franco’s constrictive rules as the father fights for political freedom and the mother tries her best to stay under the radar while dealing with her two great loves forever defying protocol.  The second half fast tracks to Madrid in 1971 and secrets and lies continue to escalate with all leading repressed lives as years of repression have taken their toll.  

The clear stand out moments from this piece would have to be the use of sound and movement simultaneously. For example a ball game is played with a ball being bounced against a wall back and forth between two players and yet there is no ball and the sound is created using a wood box. The ball looks and sounds like it is there. The use of a Perspex sheet to convey various settings including a cinema box office and a bus on a wet night is used to great effect. Sounds and vivid visuals combine to catapult the audience back to 1959. The senses come to life with this well told, well constructed piece of theatre.

The strength of Certain Dark Things comes from its very talented ensemble all singing a capella in perfect harmony, create sound effects, act and move to create a captivating story for their intimate audience. The violent hungry desire two men feel for each other takes centre stage set parallel to Franco’s terrifying reign and Roger Ribo and Inigo Ortega Martinez are searingly sexual as the forbidden lovers. The narrative is clearly devised making Certain Dark Things somewhat fractured but the haunting cello and fluid living organism that is You Need Me’s ensemble of performers and their creation of another world within a theatre space far outweighs the flaws in the sometimes conventional script.

The cast is a beautiful talented mixed bunch and as an ensemble it is hard to pick out standout performances, however Miren Alcala is captivating and The Mother with Javier Lavin complimenting her as The Father, and Kate Hewitt shines as the Julia struggling wife of Mikel whose suppressed sexuality is heartbreaking to watch. The story could be stronger, but it shines in its simplicity and the ensemble work makes this piece a clear stand out for devised work on the Fringe in 2009. This is another triumph for this well respected company after their debut with How It Ended at Edinburgh in 2008. Emotionally charged, almost flawless theatre with a rawness and yet full of heart and soul, Certain Dark Things is an absolute must see for all discerning theatre goers.  


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