Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Superbard: The Flood
Venue: Underbelly, Cowgate
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
"It’s raining, everywhere, and it won’t stop. Superbard (Radio 2, Radio 4) returns with an apocalyptic tale of obsession, statistics and sing-along choruses. In Edinburgh’s first show to be both an acclaimed eBook and physical performance, The Flood combines music, video, comedy and theatre to immerse you in a drowning world."
In ages past the best place by the fire was kept for the storyteller. Storytelling is an art. Perhaps it is the highest art – bestowing identity and belonging, rapture and rapport. The Superbard is becoming something of an Edinburgh institution. My father reviewed Superbard in his time. His grandsons may do so in theirs.
This year’s story is of a flood. A biblical deluge brought about by a deity who, bored with creation, takes the road travelled at one time or another by most players of SimCity 2000 when they unleash hostile alien spacecraft, fires et al on their hapless citizens. The narrative arcs through interweaving plot lines, the central one being a cautionary tale of the misfortune suffered by the obsessive statistician who foretold the apocalypse to a senselessly uninterested world.
Quite where George Lewkowicz (Superbard’s nom-la-vie) hit upon the idea of an obsessive statistician from is unclear, although his shaving mirror might be a good bet. In addition Lewkowicz animates the story from the point of view of a musician and compulsive gamer. Each is delineated by subtle and not-so-subtle costume changes. We are made privy to their inner thoughts and turmoil, to their own minor conflicts, even as the world is about to end.
The whole is wrapped in a vibrently staged AV, lighting and sound set – his poor techie has over 120 prompts in the space of an hour (she doesn’t miss one). Rifts of music together with artfully worked vocals give an amazing sense of time and place – the inclusion of Issy Soutie as the voice of God was a stroke of genius – and a specially-commisioned Irish melody adds a much needed sense of antiquity.
The focus of the flood is Lewkowicz’s adopted Brixton. The effect lends a terrestrial realism to a fairly sci-fi plot. Graphics draw on local landmarks. The finale happens at the Brixton Academy (inaccurately cited…sighted…as the highest point in the district). Lewkowicz is as much at home in his setting as he is in the main character.
Storytelling of this sort is immeasurably improved by the artist’s evident competency with digital mixed media. There are moments when I wonder which is supporting which, the content or its frame. The story is definitely engaging but there are moments of tangential whimsey in which my sense of direction was lost. A caravan of imaginative thought proceeds at a steady pace but the camel driver is frequently to be seen making slight adjustments to the rigging holding the baggage in place. The inevitable comparison has to be with Daniel Kitson. Lewkowicz might momentarily lack the former’s poise, drive and focus but neither can he be accused of recounting a twee lullaby.
Superbard: The Flood chronicles passion and despair, uncertainty and determination. Taking a group of believable (if not always likeable) personalities and running their lives through an inventive scenario reaps real rewards. Superbard serves storytelling with a deft defference which is never diffident.