Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Brilliantly creative le Coq theatre with physical comedy. It’s low-budget, high-quality theatre with deliciously hilarious performances.
I’m always impressed when non-Americans do plays exclusively about American places. When I walked into ‘Centralia’ at Zoo Venues I had no idea the company was British and proceeded to sit through a clever, zany, intensely creative show that I thought had been brought over from America by Americans. My compliments to the cast of three for almost perfect accents and characters that could have been from any part of the Mid-Central states.
The premise of the story is actually true: The government tried to evict an entire town because they were too cheap to stop an underground coal fire when they could have, and poisonous carbon monoxide gases continue to escape through cracks in the ground, endangering the population. The three remaining inhabitants of Centralia, Jennifer (Maria Askew), Norman (Frode Gjerlow) and Alastair (Simon Maeder) have come to Edinburgh to publicise their story. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
It’s refreshing to see a show that relies on smart, fresh, original performance instead of the promise of gritty, lurid tales of underground Edinburgh or burlesque titillation (nothing wrong with either of those) that so often tries to sell Fringe shows to get bums on seats. This is honest-to-goodness, seat-of-the-pants, solid theatre and invokes the spirit of the Fringe in spades. Devised theatre can veer towards self-absorbed if not kept in check and Superbolt Theatre does a magnificent job of creating genuine, truthful, real characters and a show filled with joy, honesty, and superior inventiveness.
The magic of this piece comes in the brilliant use of props, questionable choreography, and the earnest innocence of the characters this truly talented cast have created. Whether it’s a Kenny Rogers album with moving eyes, two flashlights as car headlights, or a disco glitter curtain, it’s an inventive and imaginative use of props and clear, crisp physical performances that sets this piece far above many shows of its ilk at the Fringe.
The reasons why each of the characters have stayed in Centralia is never fully fleshed out, so when a twist comes at the end of the show it doesn’t quite have the impact it could have. The Le Coq prowess of the performers comes through beautifully from start to finish and the eccentric threesome are a believable contingent of Team Centralia until things start to unravel towards the end. They are hilariously sincere and there is a disturbing sincerity in their quest to make their simple story known.
After the high calibre style and creativity we see for the first three quarters of the play, the mime at the end of the piece is confusing and we are unclear as to what exactly the movement symbolizes. It brings the hour long piece to an unsatisfying close and instead of ending with a resounding, clear finish, things sort of fizzle out instead.
It’s worth seeing this show for its outstanding creativity and hilarious comic moments, though. It is low budget, high calibre theatre; it’s what the Fringe is all about.