Edinburgh Fringe 2022
Two people are beneath 300 feet of ocean in some form of structure where they can breathe, and the water cannot get into. An unspecified environmental disaster has driven them to this safe space that appears to be less than secure. Tess, and Jo are doing all they can to survive but Jo suspects that Tess has been sneaking around the underwater complex in which they are hiding without her knowing. As evidence she notices that he is whittling a stick which came from somewhere and their current accommodation is not the place you would find such a thing. Enter Dani and Kris, of whom Kris has some previous relationship with Tess. Tensions rise as both Dani and Kris know the extent of this facility and report that, at the other end, there are other survivors and the beginning of a small community. As Dani faints, Tess and Kris go to see, before Dani awakes to admit to Jo, that her intention in coming were far from pure and a further disaster is imminent.
The script manages to make sense out of quite the absurd situation. It has a focus upon relationships within this complicated complex more than simply using the drama of an apocalypse to dominate proceedings. The reasoning behind Tess’s attempt to hold his breathe long enough to make Jo’s life continue longer is initially the most absurd thing of all but their naivete onstage manages to carry such a sweet thought. The writing therefore hangs together, despite the circumstances in which the characters have been set.
Karin Saari’s direction shows a light touch with the claustrophobia of both the set and the show’s premise used well. Entrances and exits are well handled with the stage being used widely to show the tensions between people as well as the distance growing as their relationships are exposed.
Given Tess’s makeup, there was a point where I wondered if any of the characters were hallucinations, however this was not so. It led me to wonder why Tess in particular looked so white. The set functioned but I was not so convinced by the tunnel entrance in and out stage right.
Lighting was minimalist as it needed to be whilst the alarm sounding throughout suggested an event which never seemed to happen. The effect each alarm had on the characters was never adequately explained and the revelation at the end didn’t help as it may have been designed to do.
Its impact as a piece of theatre was interesting as it never quite fully showed its absurdist credentials. That a theatre company references the environmental impact of a heatwave and calls itself Lighter Fuel, is also a great irony. In its dramaturgy I would have hoped there could have been a little more development over the focus of the piece – if there is a call to action, what action and what should be avoided? As a polemic, it did not quite, pardon the extra pun, catch fire.
It was, however a very earnest piece and each creative showed plenty of ability to believe that despite perhaps not being absurd enough, this was a call to arms for the present to preserve the future and avoid the inevitable. Perhaps the absurdity would be to ignore that message.