Fringe Online 2020
A Small gathering refers to three solo pieces, presented as a whole, but not as a connected narrative. They follow three characters, alone in the midst of this pandemic, who are surviving it but affected by it. We dramatically see how the effects of being isolated have affected them. We begin with Mr Pink, where actor Nir Paldi, shaves head and beard, dons the rouge lipstick and pink suit to draw us into his home scarred existence. It is followed by Rewilding where Deb Hugh, living on a houseboat, is scared to leave – until she confronts the toilet roll headed monster outside. Finally, in Cynthia’s Party Charlotte Dubery is in a nightmare where there are dolls involved; never good.
All three have no words spoken to accompany them which add to the way in which they seep into you. They have sound thanks to Sam Halmarack and have been written by the performers. Given the similarities they share thematically, (tea scores highly amongst them) there are parallels to be drawn but they are very distinctively different.
Mr Pink lulls us into the world that our character creates. By the time the lipstick is out you can fairly certainly guess where it is likely to go and it does not disappoint. The whole concept works exceptionally well and from the engaging performance of Paldi, to the seductive lighting it provides a highly entertaining opening to the triptych.
Rewilding examines life on a houseboat whilst outside the world has become a terrifying escape route. There are a few narrative gaps in Rewilding, which add rather than detract to its effect, though baking the bread and ending up with toilet roll captures the past thematic obsession that pandemia brought.
The final piece, Cynthia’s Party was for me, essentially, creepy; and all the better for it. Dubery is tremendous at drawing you in and once we get the tea party with the dolls, it was “freaked out” central. Her interplay with the dolls was very creative and using those with whom you would not share a room alone, added an excellent sinister layer.
All three though part of one whole, still have enough to separate them rather than draw comparisons. Nevertheless, I found it interesting to contemplate how they hung together as one; answer I came to was, uniquely.
What was most impressive was the way in which camera work with obviously limited resources – and personnel – was utilized. Between angles, lighting and direction all three were highly accomplished. It does add to a debate about whether an online performance could be supported in the future by choice.
I also loved the use of music and a soundscape to add to the narrative and to use props and costume in an integrated manner which made the whole feel complete.