Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Camden People's Theatre
Venue: Pleasance Below
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
The Camden People’s Theatre has created something fascinating with Icarus 2.0: an excellent rendition of a time-honoured myth, brought into a haunting modern context. The set and staging is extravagant and gorgeous, the acting a combination of balletic physicality and heart-wrenching emotion, and the production values on the whole piece are rightly high, as nearly each piece of set slots together to form a remarkably cohesive whole. The only aspect of the production that could do with a little tightening is the script: the myth and its modern context do not gel once the piece goes into more detail about the context of the piece, the lines could generally do with a little tightening, and the story arc falters a little towards the end. That being said, this is a stunningly realised production, and could be one of this Festival’s smash hits!
The story of Icarus 2.0 is one of the strangest I have seen in recent years. A father and son are introduced, and the father proceeds to conduct a thorough physical examination of his son, while he goes through a complicated and bizarre work-out regime. We gather that the son’s name is Icarus, and that his father is preparing him for some great task. It soon becomes clear that Icarus is being groomed to be the world’s first flying human, but this is not the strangest of the on-stage action. Icarus frequently goes out, with a rope tied around his midriff and a gas mask on, in what turns out to be food runs, and he and his father live off of his findings. In the meantime, a much more awful back-story is revealed, and the father’s breakdown and subsequent interactions with Icarus form the final, disturbing twist.
To give away too much of the plot would rob future audiences of the chance to enjoy this bizarre story, but this is also the main point of criticism within the piece. There are too many unanswered questions, and the piece’s strangeness seems to divest the story of a chance to develop properly. The audience is thrown from the mythological beginnings into the dark background story, and once there is given little chance to escape. There is no denying the emotional wrenching this piece induces, but it is an aimless wrenching, there is no construct in which to completely understand the context. The script could benefit greatly from trimming and reviewing.
This is especially disappointing when every other aspect of the production is so gorgeously realised. The staging and setting of the piece is exceptionally inventive and well-realised, with jars of scientific material lining every surface, hiding the final reveal. Every single prop is used and placed perfectly, including one of the most haunting moments of the piece, when "I’ve Had the Time of my Life" is played half-speed through the TV set. The further sound and light quality is also inspired, with lights highlighting perfectly the dingy and quiet setting. Sound is used brilliantly as a reminder of the outside world, with the occasional police siren or footsteps foreshadowing the piece’s finale. The production team deserves congratulations for their efforts; there is not one criticisable aspect in the production values of this team.
The acting is also a phenomenon. Both Sebastien Lawson and Jamie Wood deliver their sparse dialogue beautifully, and their intensity and involvement with the themes and the physicality of the piece are inspiring to say the least. Their work, combined with the set, is a joy to behold, and certainly a partnership worth pursuing.
This piece is on the verge of being one of the best pieces at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with a little script-trimming placing it above and beyond, in quality, the vast majority of shows here. Be sure to get a ticket, you will never see something like this again!