Edinburgh Fringe 2010
Horizon Arts return with Philip Stokes’s new play. We are member of the Uber Hate Gang from the moment we enter the theatre
In the past we’ve given Horizon Arts two five stars and one four star review for their work at the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as an outstanding theatre award for their show last year. So what lies at the heart of their "theatre for a new generation" that has been winning them such consistent acclaim?
Firstly this is affecting work, and though the opening music informs us that this is "not entertainment", this certainly is. We are honorary members of the Uber Hate Gang and we are reminded we are here of our own free will and can leave any time. We stay. All of us. To the very last moment of the rapturous applause that greets the ending of Uber Hate Gang. Oh yes, we are willing members, and the Uber Hate Gang are here to remind us of our passivity in a society that has f**ked us all up from the moment we are born.
So, here we are in all our collusive stupidity – the audience, the masses. This was Goering’s leadership principle, the free decision of the masses to buy into dictatorship, into repression. The Uber Hate Gang are here to take a stand. A bomb ticks in the corner. What unfolds is an insight into the all-too-human lives of these would-be terrorists from "a generation saturated by celebrity and image."
The gang plunder the realm of personal contentment and values and we, the witnessing audience do not come off well, in a script from Philip Stokes (who also directs) that is sometimes too episodic, losing its narrative hold on the audience’s attention, especially early on in the piece.
This was a problem with Stoke’s writing two years ago, in his more anarchic "Elvis Hates Me". Part of the award worthiness of Herion(e) for Breakfast was that it managed to fully deliver accessible "theatre for a new generation" in a way that Uber Hate Gang only mostly does (it really picks up in narrative terms towards the end).
So we are the "tight bastards" in the audience, unable to leave because we have paid to be here. I repeat this because, I really did want to be there. The dramatic tension is, at times, electric and, even though sometimes the text weighs too heavily on the characters and their believability, the cast are so fully in the skin of their persona that the dramatic punches come regularly and effectively.
The polemic here is sometimes too loud, too much worn on the skin of the characters, who become a less subtle mouthpieces for the writer. As a result, what doesn’t quite hold together are the human stories of these characters, cheating, pregnancy,and so on, weaved into the backdrop of a terrorist organisation. The drama is often raw and powerful, moving and affecting, but the ticking bomb doesn’t menace, the Uber Hate Gang becomes superfluous, clunky in the dramatic unfolding. When the explosion comes, it is too sudden and this needs work.
And yet this still is one of the most watchable, impressively performed pieces of theatre on the Fringe. It is bold, directly performed, full of ideas, judgement on the human condition, comedy, physicality, wit and not a short about of wisdom. As members of the Uber Hate Gang, we dive into the freezing waters of Stoke’s take on the screwed up world in which we all live and the hopelessness of a life that condemns us from the moment we take our first breath of life.
Stokes as a writer always gives himself permission to load his scripts with more content than most writers put into a dozen plays, and even if this sometimes makes the drama feel top heavy with text and ideas, Horizon Arts always pull it off to a point where you know you are watching talent, 150% commitment, and charisma which wash like a tsunami over the rows of audience and crash against the lighting box at the back of the theatre. That rarely happens in theatre these days. Go join the Uber Hate Gang.