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Edinburgh Fringe 2014


Barrel Organ

Genre: Drama

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Barrel Organ, formed at Warwick University, bring this exciting, tense and surprising piece to Summerhall, showing a maturity and a dramatic complexity far beyond their years.


Summerhall really is the place to be this year. In their range of quirky spaces within the body of the building plus the Paines Plough Roundabout tent they’ve got some of the most exciting and up-and-coming creatives staging their work. Some of those up-and-coming creatives are responsible for Nothing, a compilation of eight monologues whose loose common denominator is disassociation. 

The young company of Warwick University Grads and Undergrads deliver intense, at times harrowing, speeches with ease, confidence and professionalism. Knowing nothing about the show as I went into the space, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all involved were still at university or had recently left. Testament to the company’s innovative style and nuanced performances.
As we enter Summerhall’s Old Lab we are presented with a room full of seats in a chaotic arrangement and eight names stuck to the walls around us. We can sit anywhere we like, facing any direction. Once we’re all in, a man stands up and asks one audience member what his favourite name is from those on the walls – he chooses ‘Bryony’ – and then a number between 1 and 3 – he chooses 2 – and so it begins…
The monologues intercut, overlap and collide, keeping us swivelling in our chairs and constantly surprised by a new voice appearing behind us or close to us or from the other side of the room. The beauty of the actors being among us is that we just don’t know who is going to start speaking next – an engaging and exciting experience.
The text itself has moments of beauty and brilliance and, even if some of the themes are a bit hackneyed, it’s clear that Lulu Racza is an incredibly skilled wordsmith. I’m sure we can expect very great things from her in the near future…
Every monologue contains an act of violence, witnessed or experienced or longed-for, and every speaker is disassociated in some way. Racza successfully invents original and distinct voices for each of the characters, and each cast member inhabits their monologue energetically and actively.
On the way out we were handed the cast sheet which explains that Nothing is a game and that the structure gets invented and created anew every single show – that’s what all the choosing names and numbers was about. ‘The show you have just seen will never exist again’. Which is awesome… but I wish I’d known that at the start. There’s two types of games you can play in theatre: 1. A game which the audience doesn’t know about but learn as the drama unfolds, 2. A game which the audience are in on and can see at work from the off. Personally, I prefer to be in on the secret. Given what an accomplished set of words and performances this company have, if the audience were to know how alive, unique and momentary this performance is, I’m sure the already impressive drama would be even more exciting and vital.