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FringeReview Scotland 2014

The Forbidden Experiment

Behaviour presents

Genre: Drama

Venue: The Arches,


Low Down

A Platform 18 winner that is designed to push our understanding of theatre and performance that manages to impress and frustrate in equal measure but is entertaining nonetheless. It mixes some dance/movement with a narrative driven by impressive music and projections.


Two people (Michael John O’Neill and Rob Jones), a musician (Matt Regan) and a dancer (Zosia Jo) take us through their intertwined stories that are focussed on the island of Inchkeith that is in the Firth of Forth – near Edinburgh. From the 15th century James IV experiment on the island where a mute woman is asked to look after 2 babies and investigate with what language they grow up; to a Second World War coincidence that has a family in the shadow of nuclear experiments in the USA having twin sons staying on the island during the war; to the story of Michael John and his love life that ended badly leading to him ending up being the dinghy rower bringing supplies to the island.

We enter to both Michael John and Robb in lab coats – Rob trying to boo us through whilst Zosia danced solo in front of the projector accompanied by Matt with live music. From there, taking the format of a lecture/performance we are taken through the three intertwining stories in a linear fashion but with some interplay that sought to clarify but at times merely confused. We also had an under current of conflict between the main narrator, Rob and the musician Matt that did help proceedings whilst dancer Zosia managed to perform solo and portray a variety of characters before ending with Michael John as a dance couple.

I have to say that I did like the piece but found some things difficult to fathom. So let’s start with what may be trivial first. The deaf mute on the island seemed to be able to comfortably hear her Skype style call from the King. As a theatrical device this was great but it fought with Zosia being deaf. Zosia was also introduced as not speaking throughout the performance but we then got her voice over – minor I know but a tad irritating. Finally, the heat! Whilst this was not an issue created by the performers – note to Arches – that heat at that time of night is soporific and not conducive to theatre…

I also found the 3 stories were interesting in their own right but was unclear why placing them alongside each other gave you insight to anything other than there is a desolate island off the coast of Scotland… We seem to have a surfeit of these.

That notwithstanding I actually liked the piece. Performances were engaging and they did take you along quite merrily. The hitherto mentioned conflict between the serious scientist Robb who liked facts and the ever questioning Matt was spiky. It brought and old school feel to proceedings that helped keep your focus. At times Matt was speaking on our behalf trying to get some clarity for us.

The use of slides/ projections/ animations was nothing less than inspired. The use of them to illuminate Zosia’s movement at one point, almost like an angel, was daringly simplistic but also incredibly effective. I was intrigued by her movement and dance piece though joining up with Michael John may need some rehearsal as it had a look like it had fallen out of Strictly Come Dancing with him the celebrity and her knowing what she was doing.