FringeReview Scotland 2014
We are welcomed into the basement studio in the Arches by Isobel and begin an exploration of accents before her English self arrives on camera. Once she appears we investigate how UK accents are viewed within the UK before going off on an introspective journey that includes a taxi drive, exploiting the dressing up box at home, a football commentary and a visit to a chippy. By the end we have been treated to a highly able young lady and some interesting observations on how we are viewed in the world.
The initial tone and humour of the piece is cleverly set up through the inability of the video to work and the departure of the technician leaving a wee note on the screen at the very beginning of the performance that leaves McArthur vulnerable and without her video link. It is soon miraculously restored and a very intricate dialogue between her recorded self and her real self ensues. This is excellent stuff as we are treated to a well rehearsed and confident production that explores the issue of accents with cleverness and deftness. Isobel charts progress through which accent would you trust and which accent does the most recent data suggest we most like. We then get Isobel’s video half dictating the pace through looking at a variety of situations – talking to yer mother whilst chatting to a taxi driver, getting chips in a chippy, commentating and observing how the media deals with England v Scotland and a variety of costume changes that simply showcased Isobel’s abilities. During this we got into linguistic differences in terms of different word choices and one of the best whilst also one of the most incongruous elements was the football match. Her wry observations were good but it just seemed a little out of place. What was far from out of place was the end piece where she ushered us out to the Proclaimers – sheer genius.
This young student deserves high praise for what was the highlight of my On the Verge experience. (OK I only saw 3 shows in one night but it was the best…) One of the most complementary observations that I would make is that I forgot that things could go wrong; such was the assuredness and slickness of this. McArthur managed to keep the tempo and also our interest high throughout. The set pieces were done well and the interaction believable. So believable that one theatre goer was heard afterwards to opine that he still didn’t know what was her real accent…
Technically this was extremely well executed. The use of video whilst hardly new was at least well done. The experience therefore left you feeling your money was very well spent.
I shall be looking out for Isobel McArthur’s name in future as this was a peek into that which she may be capable. You should also take a peek in what the Arches supports. As a venue their support of this Festival is just one of the edgy theatrical events that are gathered together during the year for group viewing. I notice that the all male Wuthering Heights I saw last year has been picked up by Lyn Gardner of the Guardian as a must see for the Fringe this year… That started at the Arches so Isobel McArthur has a pathway… and nae pressure…?