Edinburgh Fringe 2017
“The invigorating and inventive Babolin are winners of the 2015 Fringe Review Outstanding Theatre Award. ‘The talent of this incredible ensemble is quite stunning’ (FringeReview.co.uk). In the dingy light of a flickering streetlamp on a desolate street in the middle of anywhere, Phools Mortalsby is about to sing a song. The last song. Ever.”
Phools is a frame story. There’s the story of 1600s Europe, the wider tale of foolish scientific enlightenment that, in the service of materialism, threw out the esoteric; and enclosed within all of that – yet also linked to it is the story of a young nan seeking his heredity – who and where is his father ? With a skiffle band and stories of love thrown in we head towards revelation, revolution and resolution.
In goonish, Gilliam-esque style we have a high octane show loaded with impressively realised ensemble cast theatre, superb song and plenty of set piece vocal and physical knockabout.
Phools, borne on the wings of its cast of a dozen young people, is a thrilling and satisfying physical spectacle – clownish, irreverent and funny, that sometimes is overwhelming to such an extent that the narrative becomes hard to follow. Coupled with a lack of clarity here and there in vocal articulation, the intertwined stories become a bit confusing. There’s more work to be done here.
But it is all a joy to watch, to savour the commitment and skills of this young cast. Phools is a good show, worth seeing for its sight gags and energy, for the asides and cleverness of the content, but it would benefit from a bit more dramaturgy and a clearer through line. Perhaps too many words or the need for more varied pacing and allowing episodes within it to sink in would lift the storytelling to something more accessible. I wanted to follow the story. I leant forward to catch it, but was still frowning a bit – it’s bamboozling in parts. That said, the ensemble work is, in parts, a joy to behold. This is a joined-up cast, working very well together.
They own the stage, inhabit the skins of their characters with full commitment and confidence. This is, as it always is with Babolin, youth theatre at its best, making use of fire, water, air and earth, put to the playful and inventive service of theatre performance.
Let’s de-confuse it a bit. That said, what a glorious beast of collective performance – comedy, music, drama and dialogue ! Well done all of you!