Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Do you know what the Bystander Effect is? Bright Scottish talent Jenna Watt’s latest piece aims to challenge this with the help of the audience. Originally conceived when a friend of her’s was brutally attacked in London this show explores through testimony and narrative the streets where we live and the horror that can lie there.
The setting for this show could not be more perfect as you are led into one of the old dissection rooms of Edinburgh Veterinary College now re-invented as arts centre Summerhall. The floor is bare, a giant double-sided hook hangs from the ceiling, the floor slopes to the drain in the middle and we are seated in rows of desks reminiscent of a Hammer Horror.
Unlike the make-believe horror of these films Jenna Watt’s piece is about the real horror that some of us experience in our daily lives. As she says near the start of the show, the geography of our daily lives are plagued by acts of violence.
The starting point of this piece of live art was an awful unprovoked attack on one of her closest friends in London: looking at why and how it happened. Why did none of the bystanders on the train help when her friend was hit not once but 6 times including a punch so powerful it sent once of his canine teeth through his lip?
Through narrative, slides (that at times slip into animation) and testimony from victims of violence and the police we explore the bystander effect and learn what a Flaneur is. Derived from French a Flaneur is basically a stroller, someone who explores their geography through the act of strolling and Jenna as a Flaneur links her piece together by looking at the psycho-geography of her adopted home of Edinburgh.
This is not a totally successful piece even though the question at the heart of the piece is an important one…what would you do? Would you stand by and watch an act of violence committed against someone close to you or a stranger? Would you intervene?
There is something curiously old-fashioned about the structure, narrative, verbatim testimony and even the use of the space which makes it a less that satisfying hour.
If you frequent verbatim theatre productions or performance art there is nothing here that surprises and in some places the message overcomes the art.
There is real potential and Jenna Watt is an artist to watch as she matures . I hope that plans come to fruition so that Summerhall becomes a year round venue and acts as a crucible for talent like Jenna Watt and her peers.