Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Fusion Theater Company presents a vibrant interwoven piece of poetic theatre that stands on the voices of young people who tell us just how it is for them. It tells the stories of a younger underclass without being condescending to them or shouting at the audience.
Fusion Theater Company are an American troupe from the International Collegiate Theatre Festival. Polaroid Stories is a poetic exploration of the underclass using the mythology of the Greeks to give names and focus to the stories. The brutality of these ancient figures are given new focus and interpretation through storylines with a Greek edge and modern voice. An American company of young actors this owes more to the Wire than Friends. It weaves and bobs the storylines with ease as we see the stories of a multitude of well drawn characters with narratives repeated and returned to through strong performances.
The set was incredibly simple with chair, drug props and a mattress brought out when needed. The venue has four pillars that obscure the view from some of the seats. The performance was well lit and although there was an initial lapse of concentration the staging was effective enough. Costume was simple and captured the desperation of the characters as well as the underclass they represented.
The production is an excellent example of young actors performing what they know best and what their voices feel with authority and wisdom. This comes across well from their performances. As an example of a young actor’s company I can think of few parallels. The performances and production as a whole leaves us with questions to be asked rather than answers.
It is far too condescending to talk of how young people are perceived in the media and here are some fantastic examples of young people doing something positive. This needs to be analysed in terms of their abilities as actors and it is here that the ultimate charm of this piece shines through. The pace of the show was to hit the ground running and the cast did so with ease, finding the places where pause and poetry combined to great effect. That having been said there were a few occasions I could have done with the fast forward button. Rare though they were 90 minutes of relentless misery without much in the way of relief can either numb your senses or begin to feel like groundhog day.
I was thoroughly engaged with this production, though it was not without flaws. The writing uses profanity sparsely and to punctuate the piece. The pace of the acting drove the performances on with style. Director, Michael Torres, managed to provide us with believable and relatively well crafted performances but the space was difficult into which to place the piece. At times it was difficult for some of the audience to see the performances as it seemed to be directed for a proscenium arch theatre rather than the thrust stage at Venue 45.
Although an ensemble piece I have to give special mention to Johnny Manibuselm who played Skinhead Boy/Oklahoma Boy/Speed Racer. It was a spellbinding performance from a young actor with a very bright future. Spellbinding. His performance made all the more impressive due to the physical skills he brought to the theatre with him. Not all performances matched his but they were mainly very strong and of a high standard.
The use of A Cappella singing – beautifully haunting – which was then joined by a soundtrack using the same song before the character who sang having their tongue cut out is an abject example of how this piece had the Greeks as its starting point but the drugs/destitution/ language and relationships were of the 21st Century.
The issue for me was that some of the acting wasn’t always as strong as others. The writing had some patchiness and it was perhaps a few minutes too long. The direction had flaws but overall the audience and myself thoroughly enjoyed this piece. The audience however were made mainly of other performers. Their reaction was warm and welcoming. I believe that the flaws were very minor and the overwhelming feeling I was left with was that this was a well polished piece of theatre that was more than worth the £5 charged as entry.