Edinburgh Fringe 2011
A group of travelling circus-freaks come to the end of their career with the demise of interest in the form. Difficult decisions have to be made by the caller and performersm, which have some unimaginable consequences.
Futureproof is certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing shows I have seen at this festival. The paraphernalia of a travelling freak show is scattered about the stage, with a horseless wagon serving as a stage, an office, a caravan and also a projector screen. The costume design is delightful, for a play which focuses on the spectacle of the ‘freaks’ gawped at by ‘townies’ over the years, it was important that the oddities of physique were adequately represented, and the design of Colin Richmond didn’t disappoint. The excellent Nicola Roy and Ashley Smith as the Siamese twins were as convincing as they would be if actually conjoined – their rehearsed movements were flawless and they were so well cast that it was easy to believe that they were actual twins – and I was sitting in the third row. The obese man, Tiny, had a very convincing fat suit, which even at close quarters looked the part, and the bearded lady and hermaphrodite were also finely attired.
The story of Futureproof is one of loss – the ostracised freaks who have spent their lives earning money by the parading of their deformities, find themselves confronted by a public with changing tastes. No longer looking to gawp at the horror of difference, the folk in the towns the show travels to are becoming enamoured with new acts such as the mermaid who can hold her breath under water, and old-faithfuls such as the Siamese twins find themselves pushed down the billing. Forced to change to accommodate the modifying tastes, some of the company embrace the necessary transformations, whilst others, such as the hermaphrodite George/Georgina begin to understand who they truly are, and understand that their deformity is not something that can be removed at will.
The performances and staging in Futureproof are excellent and Lynda Radley’s script is an accomplished piece of writing. However, despite the best production values, the play lacked a certain amount of energy, and the characters were not sympathetic enough for me to care much about their plight (possibly with the exception of George/Georgina, played with spirit and heart by Lesley Hart). The play explores the effects that changing audiences tastes must have had on performers throughout the ages, but Futureproof is especially poignant because of the characters’ need to change their fundamental selves in order to survive. The price of this desperate desire to change and please becomes clear at the end of the play, but the shocking outcome is somehow dulled by a slightly lacklustre ending – bar an excellent speech from George/Georgina, who embraces her difference and asserts herself admirably.
The company are fine performers, and the design is excellent, but the script’s failure to engage the audience sufficiently made this show a three star offering.