Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Zinnie Harris paints a vivid collage of war in The Wheel, a collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland.
Zinnie Harris is a regular feature of the Traverse fringe programme and in this follow up to 2009’s blistering Fall she once again tackles a society at war.
In The Wheel we are introduced to a rural community in need, yet despite a poor harvest two sisters, Rosa and Beatriz busily prepare for Rosa’s impending wedding. This witty scene, reflecting on the illusions women are forced to create to keep their men happy, is shattered by the appearance a soldier declaring that war has broken out and the army require use of the sister’s land. Here begins Harris’ reflection on the indiscriminate effects of war, pulling in the innocent and leaving deep scars that are seemingly impossible to erase.
Beatriz is forced to accompany a mute girl across a mythic version of Spain to find her father. Harris uses the journey to expose the audience to a collage of conflicts from around the world, conflating Vietnam, Iraq, suicide bombers and the holocaust the device created a grim and unyielding picture. The bold and gutsy central performance from Catherine Walsh held the focus of the audience.
The play’s direction appeared a little uneven, with the company taking part in a undeveloped movement sequences that punctuated the scenes and with some patchy and unclear interaction with the sparse props. Also the similarities in narrative, and at times the design, between The Wheel and Deborah Warner’s fairly recent production of Brecht’s Mother Courage at the National Theatre felt like you were rarely breaking new ground either visually or conceptually. Critique aside, the play did create a immersive experience for the audience and the final twist in the tale was grimly effective and foregrounded Harris’ skill as a writer.
A solid ensemble and Harris’ vividly poetic script make this production a worthy watch, but its weighty message was delivered with a didacticism that it didn’t move me in the way that I am sure was intended.