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Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The Knee Jerk of Sloth

Birds of Inconvenience

Genre: Absurd Theatre

Venue: Zoo Venues, Monkey House


Low Down

"The Knee Jerk Of Sloth, a new play written by Pelagie-May Green, is a tragi-comedy brimming with lyrical music and the poetry of the gutter. After a tragic death years ago, four homeless and hopeless people are left picking up the pieces in an old glue factory. As the events of the past gradually come to light, Blake, Shane, Pete and Queenie slowly lose their drunken minds with devastating results."


Birds of Inconvenience are a company of young performers presenting bold new work at Zoo this year and they are worth keeping an eye on. Pelagie-May Green’s absurdist take on homelessness lifts her characters momentarily out of the ordinary and mundane and into the magical and mysterious. What’s clever is that we are constantly aware of these two worlds – the ever-present threats of hunger, thirst and being removed from their make-shift accommodation – in this case an old glue factory –  clashing with the search for beauty and love.

Each of the characters has a particular focus or obsession. Pete (a warm and engaging performance from James Marks) is fascinated by light bulbs and collects them and their glow is his pleasure. His brother Shane (a delightfully boyish turn from Scarlett Sherriff) is constantly searching for his “angel”, embodied by a cooing pigeon. These are the ones who look to the heavens for some kind of redemption while down on earth, dealing with the daily grind are mute clown Queenie (a coy and impishly funny Louise Skaaning) who scoffs sandwiches from a box, whilst hiding from the world – as Blake (Nathan Parkinson’s well-observed schizophrenic) struggles to inject some reality into the proceedings and keep everyone organised – while pissing into a bucket like some lairy lad on a grotesque night out. The real world begins to invade with Pete’s death from exposure – and some lovely physical comedy sees his body ejected from the factory into the street. Whilst the characters continue their struggle to stay alive, the discovery of the corpse brings the weight of authority to bear, with terrible consequences.

Green herself takes a part, her Lillian flitting between scenes like some will-o’-the-wisp, desperate to be loved. The enclosed atmosphere of the Monkey House is made more pronounced by the use of specific light sources and a little well-weighted music with guitar and voice. Director Raine Coles draws the various threads together with precise and taut direction. The overall effect of the piece is transporting and magical, a world of dreams literally hanging by a thread. It’s completely captivating and well worth catching. Our emergence into the Edinburgh sunshine also reminds us that there will be real people in real cardboard boxes on the streets tonight.