Brighton Fringe 2008
Venue: The Old Police Cells Museum, Brighton Town Hall
Festival: Brighton Fringe
Think clearly. Wake up. Focus.
A lyrical and haunting new drama by playwright and poet Ed Harris, performed in the atmospheric Old Police Cells Museum.
The Old Police Cells museum sounded like the perfect venue for a ‘lyrical and haunting’ new drama and so it was with much anticipation that I descended the numerous flights of stone stairs into the belly of Brighton Town Hall.
In the partial darkness we were seated in front of a set of slatted shelving, reminiscent of a long- abandoned quarter-master’s store. Discarded toys, files and suitcases rested at intervals, looking as if a light tap would send up clouds of dust. Wartime-era jazz crackled around our ears.
Four women stand in line, separated from us by the shelves of time-gone -by. Stories are told. Directions are given. Conversations patter, flicker, die and move on. Ed Harris’s vibrant, undulating dialogue is given the all the pace and space it needs to smack you between the eyes one minute and run it’s fingers through your hair the next.
What is most striking and surprising, given the surroundings and the design, is the way in which the women are so utterly rooted in the present. Their concerns, their obsessions, their stories are a hymn to the Human Condition circa 2008. The programme alludes to a ‘female Waiting For Godot’ and I found myself identifying with their skilful and beautifully timed movements between affectionate banter, emotive accounts of past and present, militant and paranoid self-censorship and momentary insights into life. There were times, however, where I felt the performers begin to pick up on each other’s rhythms, diluting the beautifully contrasted vocal patterns evident elsewhere in the piece.
The bold design – stark shafts of light that penetrated the darkness, interspersed with moments of utter blackness – served to brilliantly enhance the sense of flashes of the profound shown through the guise of the mundane. This was occasionally to the detriment of the actors as I longed to see just a little more of their faces at times, to feel just a little closer to them.
Total is a quirky, poetic and darkly fundamental insight into what seems to run seamlessly through our bodies and minds day in, day out. I was burped back into the Brighton evening sunshine feeling more than a little connected to the darkness below the surface.