Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Louise Wallinger tells us that she has various voices on her i-pod. She will now relay them as she listens to them to provide us with verbatim witness statements to a variety of events with which neighbours and neighbourhoods may find themselves dealing. Over the course of an hour the one narrative that begins and ends concerns the wrecking of a garage with a car that was reversed at speed from across the road. Our investment in Louise as a narrator is defined by her final coup de theatre where she reveals all about that incident.
Louise has an i-pod strapped in which allows her to listen to a wide variety of characters. We are then treated to these characters, some of whom appear once and others enjoy longevity in their relationship with us. We have people who live in a house, people who complain about other people living in houses and the people who have to go and deal with both. It is an interesting idea and one which has many merits.
The writing is patchy, but this may be down to the idea of this being verbatim theatre. How can you rewrite the words of witnesses? Perhaps you can’t but what you can do is structure them in such a way that it keeps people interested. When the story and the characterisation worked, it worked very well, where it began to fade a little it really started to lose me.
There is a convention in the theatre that if your audience numbers less than the cast you cancel. Doing solo shows at Hill Street might help avoid cancellations but I ended up being the solo audience. Louise came out and performed as if it were full so there is a really gutsy performer here. Some of the content however might have benefitted from an audience that would respond more than I did.
The vehicle of using an i-pod, like a Mexican soap opera, didn’t work for me. I don’t get the ear piece thing as actors need to act. I would have been happier had I been able to watch with Louise being a narrator that had complete control of the piece rather than seemingly being directed by voices in her head.
There were two chairs on the stage which Louise used to good effect with many characters being created in relation to the chair or anxiously standing to the side. Once again solo shows run the risk of having only the focus on the person and without any real set of which to speak you walk right into that. I was entertained but felt there was a need for much more – apart from more audience.
This was an unfortunate Monday for Louise but there is plenty of merit in both her approach to each character as well as the stories they tell. I would just work on the packaging a bit as it needs some better considered wrapping paper.