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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Concerned Others

Tortoise in a Nutshell

Genre: Multimedia, Puppetry, Theatre

Venue: Summerhall


Low Down

Scotland has the highest rate of drug-related deaths in Europe. In communities across the country, families, loved ones, and clinicians support people suffering with substance addiction. Multi-award winners Tortoise in a Nutshell present Concerned Others, an intimate tabletop performance that shares the stories of critically underheard voices. Accounts that paint us as a nation struggling to recognise a deadly culture of shame, ignorance and misunderstanding surrounding addiction and drug-related death. Immersive soundscapes, shoebox installations, turntables, micro-projection and 32mm figures combine to create a multi-textured piece exploring a defining crisis. Part of the Made in Scotland showcase.


Concerned others is a compact show with an impactful message. One actor, a non flashy set and clever use of minimal technology present this show created and directed by Tortoise in a Nutshell, a Scotland based theatre charity company. This company focuses on bringing important human issues to the forefront through their creative devised theatre shows – that are also based in strong community relationships and continuing to build these as they tour their shows throughout Scotland.

This show according to it’s description, focuses on substance addiction prompted by Scotland’s highest rate of drug-related deaths in Europe. Given the strength of this information Tortoise in a Nutshell go to great care to seek first hand how these issues are affecting people’s lives by interviewing people in communities affected by substance addiction. Then the result of their thorough research and creative process becomes this show.

Through voice overs and creative use of several different size screens showing words and imagery the story begins and we are immersed in a type of docudrama that gently moves from point to point, building in filmic qualities that involve object puppetry.

Tiny figures are moved by the performer puppeteer after he has constructed a community of shoe box sized boxes, each containing a small figure. The village could be a facility or any kind in today’s society such as community housing, a hospital, prison or rehab centre. The stark reality of this story is emphasized by all set pieces props and projections are in black, white or grey. This is a real problem and while the show is a means to share information it is creative and is also entertaining moving and meaningful.

The voice overs we hear from people talking about their own substance addiction represent all society, where this affects everyone and anyone. These recollections are real people talking anonymously and off camera so they speak from the heart. Some victims are professionals who need help to keep going and others are from family situations that lead to addiction as a way to cope. What is impactful is that addiction is everywhere and affects everyone no matter their education and financial means. Hopefully this type of performance is valuable as a learning experience, so that people can relate and want to lower the prevalence of addiction in their counties and communities by finding personal or country wide solutions.

Is there a solution? We are not there yet, but Tortoise in a Nutshell does offer some insights and fascinating simulations with a body puppet on film with an arm that wants to have a drink, the eyes open and close and the face is suddenly scrambled as it tries to make a decision. This is a daunting subject sensitively treated by this company that should be seen by everyone to gain insight in the reasons this is happening. Moving, poignant and very creative.