Edinburgh Fringe 2013
This is a play about a husband and wife, a Mum and Dad, two human beings in the modern age – trying to make sense of themselves and trying to relive their story all over again rather than sit alone in the dark ruminating and regretting…there’s a mother in law, and a realistic pet..and some truly comical moments….but though he is part of and central to the story we never meet the son – a shadowly figure watching life from far away… plugged into the Matrix.
Well! A mammoth impact was made! I don’t know if everyone would like this play but it’s a must see if you would like some thought-provoking dialogue and surreal but funny moments.
What do you do if you feel you were born in the wrong time….if your bones long for wilder pastures….your favourite book is Clan of the Cave Bears and you have romantic visions of yourself, swathed in skins and furs of the prey you have hunted and skinned with your own bare hands….baby tucked in one side….handmade flint knife in your other…standing proud and strong staring over the emotional and beautiful land that you know is part of you and for you….?
This image jars somewhat when you are wrestling with your M&S bra in a stinking toilet because the old ladies in the café have been tutting at your boob precariously popping out amidst the screams of a hot and irate baby….or you are trying to decide which ready meal to make because the bright neon lights and manicured voiceover of the robot like promotional recording is drowning out any original thought you might have, perpetrating relentless marketing and advertising and you are just desperate to get out of there and home…away from the madding crowd….you just want to go with your family on an adventure….using your wits and bare hands to survive….working together…discovering your skills and strengths…exploring your natural instincts….but your husband spends the whole time fiddling with the GBS and new superfast pop up tent and newest 15 tool gadget and extendable fire lighting device…
When your husband is tucked up every night staring at blue screens and looking up what new gadgets can replace even more physical activities…aspiring to be a moving thumb and large brain and not much else…where do you go from here if you have no tribe and no land to look out on…if you don’t understand what’s around you and don’t feel the connection of your own flesh and blood because ‘progress’ has turned those around you into sleeping…vague…misty eyed technological creatures far removed from the hunter gathers we once were….the hysteria of this woman facing this realisation of a long journey of parenting already gone with no real mark other than a nervous twitch and tendency towards panic is perfectly set against the polite, often gently bewildered expression of Greg Powrie’s, slightly baffled ‘modern’ man. The biggest Proboscidea in the room might be that monogamous closed relationships are a modern day social construct and doomed to failure as women recognise more the experience of the loneliness of such an unnatural and small ‘community’..
And the logical follow on from this would-be a return to nature and a way of exploring how we might have once lived…millions of years before the intrusion of technology…but this kind of thinking can only lead to madness and even more confusing furriness for us all….
Ruminating on the awkwardness and confusing nature of what it means to be a mother, a parent…in a time when individuality means breaking away from the community act of parenting to something almost psychotic and lonely inside four walls was utterly and perfectly expressed with Deborah Arnott’s outstanding performance of a woman on the edge, off the edge, next to the edge and leaping on and off the edge in wild terrified delighted abandonment…preferably accompanied by her lusty companion who was deliciously played by Ian Cameron, the most convincing performance of an animal I have ever seen, despite being utterly deadpan and mostly upright. Arnott’s introduction to the performance has stayed with me all day, her nervously apologetic but brutally honest confessions were perfectly played setting the scene for the bubble within which the play’s context was set.
The scene with the sausages composed of a simple but genius dialogue where the underplaying of the animal set against Powrie’s responses, made it somehow more convincing and more believable.
The absurd comedy with Mike Leigh sort of moments gave the piece a changeable mood of unreal mingled with hyper-real quality. There are some moments of naturalism lift this piece of theatre into wonderfully vivid scenes, sometimes it doesn’t quite work…sometimes the characters are utterly believable, sometimes a little forced. The script is rich enough to make me want to hear it all again although strangely we never feel we get to grips with who Kyle is and what is his voice – but this may have been intentional.
The set is striking, the lighting and music perfectly sets the mood for each scene and the changeovers at the end from operatic and almost bizarrely magical back to hypereality are effective and clear. The production mainly set out what it said it would, with a few surprises along the way.
The beautiful line ‘I was pissed off when Kyle left home because I didn’t feel as if our life together as a family had started yet’. Together with “I have the physical symptoms of PTSD from the experience of raising our child”, slashed through in a single moment what is at the heart of the hysteria of modern life. I was very tickled to see these thoughts played out in front of me in a way that simultaneously exposed the ridiculousness as well as the sadness of it all.
Take an open mind and no expectations and see what comes out of your own journey through this sometimes genius, sometimes clumsy, sometimes silly, often funny, sometimes enlightening heart-warming play, which will keep challenging your wish for it to follow convention.
Did I mention the full frontal male nudity?