Edinburgh Fringe 2014
This is a meeting following on from the completed suicide of a child that has a parent and a teacher verbally dancing round each other. From that conference we experience the awkward silences that follow not knowing what to say and what it doesn’t mean.
One character onstage is crying. Given the seriousness of the situation about to unfold it is hardly surprising. All is not, though what it appears and when the parent of a child that has completed suicide arrives the awkwardness between the two heightens. This is due to the teacher having sent Gideon, the 11 year old who has completed suicide, home after having read a disturbing story written by him that sounds like a medieval legend. As the Principal is not going to join them the verbal jousting ends with the discovery of why the teacher was crying in the first place. The bitter irony does not end in recrimination as we are wondering if it should.
This is well written with plenty of awkwardness built in. There are times though that the parent does not come across like someone who has lost a child as the awkwardness does tend to dominate rather than any anger. I looked for this fury to spill at times and when the physical violence erupted it was a tad short on ferociousness. I wanted this to move onto another level which it simply did not do. I just felt there was a gear missing and it could have done with going up to that level to be more convincing.
There was little by way of set and what there was worked tolerably well. Again there was little by way of theatre arts and given the subject matter this was entirely appropriate.
Billed as leaving the audience gasping for breath, I was not amongst them. In Scotland we have had our own share of gun tragedy and it may well be that, because we have acted and banned guns, we feel more at peace with this subject matter. It just needed to be more shocking, visceral and the awkwardness seemed less believable as a result. It left me wanting to love this more than I did though it does tell a very important tale. It did so with conviction and some insight which is useful to add to the debate surrounding how education and parenting should support children and not clash. Perhaps our sympathies are all too wound up with the parent and the teacher does come across at times as naïve and interfering. As a teacher myself I can find sympathy for her but as a parent of many kids I also have great sympathy for the mother. The mother appeared to be rounded whilst the teacher struggled to find justification for her actions in suspending a child who wrote a story. That the story is all rape and murder from an 11 year old boy would worry many; it would worry me. I don’t’ feel, though, able to take the side of the teacher having heard it. It leaves you wanting more from the story and I believe there is more to come.