Edinburgh Fringe 2015
Desperate Measures : Below The Breadline
Simply See Productions
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
A thought-provoking, occasionally hard-hitting piece penned by the cast themselves that paints a disturbing, yet occasionally cautiously optimistic portrait of life through the eyes of today’s economically disenfranchised younger generation. Welcome to the austerity generation.
Hopes, dreams, ideals. Most people have them when they’re young. Maybe some still harbour a few as they hit what they might like to think of as maturity. Yet, somehow in the growing up process, the more prosaic elements of life seem to take over as people eek out an existence where paying the rent and having enough left over to feed themselves represents success.
Welcome to the austerity generation. Welcome to life in a metropolis. Welcome to life in London. An ever increasing proportion of this iconic city’s 8.3 million inhabitants have known nothing but a working life of seemingly unending menial grind, an environment where everyone seems to think they’re in the right, lots of people try to control what you do but no one is actually accountable for anything. Whatever happened to the promise of stimulating, remunerative employment as a return for the hard flog (and expense) involved in tertiary education these days?
In this thought-provoking and occasionally hard-hitting piece penned by the cast themselves, Below The Breadline paints a disturbing, yet cautiously optimistic portrait of life through the eyes of today’s economically disenfranchised younger generation. Set around London’s creaking public transport infrastructure, it presents a series of conversational vignettes examining the strain that breadline living places on relationships and self-worth, of feeling trapped, having to face down prejudice, having to prostitute one’s very soul to win and hold down a job that generates enough loot to avoid sinking into a whirlpool of debt.
The cast of ten sweep through scenes with pace, passion and poignancy. One-on-one conversations are augmented with soliloquies and syncopated exchanges. The language is sharp and direct. Issues are confronted. Opinions tumble forth. The multi-cubed set morphs into endless configurations to represent life on the run in the city. It also cleverly stores costumes for on-set changes, ensuring a smooth transition from one place and character to another. The subtle use of live music quietly reinforces the impression created by the unending stream of situations unfolding before us that there has to be a better way of living life in the city than the breathless version evidenced by the early part of the 21st Century.
Perhaps there is. This excellent piece of theatre is not all about problems. It doesn’t leave you with the feeling that Britain is broken. There are solutions and, as the “conscience” character suggests, if a few people put just a little more effort into trying to start a conversation, smiling at their fellow city-dwelling traveller, meeting them in the eye rather than hiding behind their mobile device, city life may become less of existence and more fulfilling. And, in turn, this might result in some of those hopes, dreams and ideals becoming reality, to the betterment of all. As a former London resident, I’d say amen to that. Thoroughly recommended viewing for city and rural folks alike.