Fringe Online 2021
Starting at the graveyard at the Ramshorn and through 8 other stations from there down to the River Clyde we are taken by a young man from the 18th Century, telling us his story of being brought to Scotland as a slave. At each station we are brought a VAR experience that has visuals which are projected on our phone over the buildings and streets in front of us. They tend to be ethereal rather than significantly interactive with the surroundings, however it is the significance of the street names which is important. Named after the traders in slavery and the legacy of our shame, they serve as a subtle reminder of our responsibilities and of our part in his tale: of all the slaves’ tales. This story is told not just for himself but on behalf of many generations who found themselves coming to our shores and brought to increase our richness. We hear of his arrival, of the trials and tribulations of being in a new country as well as being owned by those who would seek to exploit him. By the end, we are given a list of names that should be held in our hearts and close to our vision of how we should make amends for the wrongs of our forefathers in a powerful piece of telling a tale, that leaves plenty to be imagined but nothing left out.
Given the new world in which we live, I think I approached this expecting a blend between an intellectual version of Pokémon Go! And an opportunity to get out the house., I got far more.
Its best exemplified by the passage in Victoria Court. Up until then there is a subtlety and poetry about the voices telling the tale. They serve us an introduction, but here the whole thing is brought into a distinct focus before we get the names that have become the grid lines of a night out but are also the route map of the influences that show us how the past has infected our present. The voices in my ears manage to take the poetic and draw you into the pleasant, before you realise the focus of their story is one of the most unpleasant periods in our country’s history; it is a poignant piece of narrative.
As such, the poetic nature of the piece never leaves us as the haunting melody of Reuben Joseph’s voice lilts and dances across the earpiece, leaving you wanting to know more. It brings to our attention the place names and the buildings which are our common problem. We may stagger or stride down the alleyways on nights out, dedicating out time to the pursuit of pleasure, but perhaps we ought to skulk and hide in how the shame should make us feel.
Whilst the performances in the piece are entrancing and hypnotic, the visuals slightly less so. I loved the way they took over my phone but the connections between the visuals being given to me virtually as well as the visuals that were “live” and in front of me did not always manage to convince as much as I felt they ought. At the Victoria Court, they started to make more sense though the next one left us far too much in the dark; literally.
The script and its direction is beautifully pitched and managing to tread the fine line between getting the message across and being keeping us engaged.
Overall, this is a tremendously creative response to one of the thorniest issues of our time and whilst I might not be very proud of our past, it certainly reminded me of how proud we should be to tackle it. It’s a hymn to the past, and a muted clarion call to reshape all of our futures.