Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Le Coq trained company, ‘Let Slip’, return to a time when high-rise buildings were beautiful. The piece feels like a weird comic book story that has come to life – each character immaculately drawn and leaping out of the page. Both funny and deeply moving, it inventively considers a lesser-known topic – the result an engaging and relevant production.
The Brutalist architectural movement that arose after the Second World War, saw concrete as not only a cheap but also an extremely aesthetically pleasing medium in which to respond to the increased demand for housing. By taking people high into the sky architects believed they would inspire high hopes and high aspirations. By allowing people to live so closely together it was anticipated that a true sense of community spirit would flourish.
Machines For Living focuses on the Swiss architect Corbusier (a sinister character played by Frode Gjerlow) and his influence on a young married couple, Roger and Wendy (David Ralfe and India Banks), who want to create homes that provide ‘regeneration for the new generation’. She is inspired by the community spirit (wonderfully personified by Nessa Norrich) whilst he is more egocentrically focused, wanting buildings that reach further and higher than ever. Their dreams seem realised at first and they are hailed as great architects of their time, but it is not long before things begin to crumble.
Let Slip approach this subject admirably, with a striking and dynamic set that responds favourably to the scene changes. Perhaps some clothes stands at the side might have prevented what came to be a slightly messy changing area, and could add to the concept of the home that they are exploring. However, the physical moments brought the elements of the piece together; both linking the range of viewpoints and allowing the piece to progress temporally. The talented collaboration of this group is obvious, and they should take pride in what they have created.
The focus on what would initially seem an inconsequential story puts the almost universal prejudice against high-rise flats into perspective – they were not always thought thus! And furthermore, a question arises: was their downfall due to the architecture of the building, or the nature of mankind? A deep, relevant and fascinating topic.