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Edinburgh Fringe 2009


Sound and Fury

Venue: The Drill Hall


Low Down

Kursk takes us deep into an unknown world. From the moment, we enter the incredible set we are transported into the world of British submariners on the quest of the Russian submarine, Kursk, which was lost at sea in 2000. Sound and Fury has created a compelling, immersive piece of theatre that allows us to experience the unfamiliar routines and dramas of submariners.


In 2000, a huge explosion ripped apart the Kursk, a Russian submarine and set it down to the sea bed with the loss of all on board. Sound and Fury’s play recreates the tragedy from the perspective of a British submarine on a spy mission to find out what makes the Russian submarine the submarine for the 21st century.

A huge, immersive set has been created in Edinburgh’s Drill Hall that makes us simultaneously observers of and complicit in the action. Jon Bausor’s incredible set recreates the submarine world so that we are totally subsumed in the action along with the submariners; a claustrophobic black box that hums and vibrates with the soundscape of the submarine. The audience either promenades on the lower deck with the actors or look down in awe from a gallery at a vast control deck, a submariners’ mess, bunk bed cabins and torpedoes. The set and sound design are as much the stars of the show here as the action and the actors.

Pen sketches of the characters as they leave port – the new father, the coxswain’s Open University course – allow the audience access to their internal worlds from the outset. Then as the submarine plunges into its long voyage, we enter a world where collaboration and teamwork are key and where a small group of men depend totally on each other for survival. The contrast between their everyday routine and the need to respond to “emergency stations” at a moment’s notice builds the tension. When disaster finally strikes the Kursk, the tight knit group of men who have been tracking an “enemy” find their allegiance is to their Russian fellow submariners. The moment when the lights go down completely and Russian voices pierce the blackness is heartbreaking.

Though the story is slight, Byrony Lavery’s script works well with the set to create characters and scenario that we become totally involved with. When one of the submariners receives bad news from the ship’s captain, the impact on the audience is seen as he makes his way through the ship; the audience peel back and hang their heads affected by his personal tragedy.  It is a strong ensemble performance and Ian Ashpitel as the poetry loving coxswain and Tom Espiner as the new father are particularly strong.