FringeReview Scotland 2015
Scottish Youth Theatre participants have spent just over two weeks creating a youthful family brought together by no more glue than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. After some calamity of nuclear proportions they find themselves alone with the division of age to keep them warm. Soon such division creates further conflict as the elders, who created the myth of the deity Leeane, replace her with themselves until revolution is the only option.
We walk into the Edwin Morgan Studio through a camouflaged canopy that leads us into an urban cave like set. Within that basement we meet cast members coming onto the set for sleep within it. Soon they rise and begin their day as they possibly have started each day down in the dungeon with the chants and stories that have communal storytelling qualities. It lets us understand why they are here and gives a real sense of shared experiences. We also discover the story of Leeane who was left on the outside. She has been assumed to be the God they must all follow – the wise one who knocks on walls and keeps them safe as well as delivers them from evil. This strikes you as a new society creating a God to follow and explain the inexplicable, just like in ancient times. From there the petty insecurities of those in charge are given full reign. That one of the younger group then punctures the myths told is quite surprising but also very effective.
There is much to like in this production as the youthfulness of the cast show off the work that has been remarkably achieved in such a short space of time. Their enthusiasm pulls some of this through, however it does not hide one flaw which I think does mar the overall impression.
Devised shows always have, certainly within time constraints, a tension that exists between inclusion and narrative. It means that, as choices are made for performance we often need to sacrifice one to achieve the other. For example narratives may need to be big and obvious otherwise what happens is that we are treated to a world view that has not gone through the editing process or alternatively set pieces work well but are less developed than they need to be as the story needs to be finished. The set pieces worked well here – the chanting, the physical retelling of bad v good and the courtroom with the exposition being possibly the best part of the night.
What worked less well was the dialogue between actors trying to give us some insight into the relationships in their underground home. It could be argued that young people portraying young people will come across like young people but theatrically there needed a touch more finesse to it. In some cases shouting comes across as shouting and we lose what is underneath these young performers – a very firm grip of their characters.
The performances were patchy but never less than engaging and the cast worked so hard to make this a theatrical experience, any slips were quickly forgotten and the narrative brought back into focus. It is testimony to these young performers that I can make criticisms as their performances showed that they have broad enough shoulders to take the burden of professional performance.
I liked the set and the atmospheric nature of the piece – it suited it all well. The music used was also very helpful in that the soundscape was as apocalyptic as the show itself.
The direction was crisp and as expected from Fraser McLeod. McLeod has made this part of the summer project very much his own and whilst it may not have hit the dizzy heights of previous offerings, it certainly demonstrated a firm and assured hand on the tiller.
It would not bode well to be condescending to anyone involved in this piece but another run through the wringer would help. In the time given to achieve this however, I know how inventive and creative young people can be; I have been blessed to be associated many times with their free flowing creativity. What it does need, however, is a mature moulding that presents it at its best. Collateral Damage could have done with more time but it shows us plenty of creative ability on hand to make good use of that time.