FringeReview Scotland 2013
Be Silent or Be Killed
Right Lines Productions (In association with Eden Court)
Venue: The Cottiers, Kelvinbridge, http://www.cottiers.com/locations/cottiers-kelvinbridge/
Festival: FringeReview Scotland
Roger Hunt went to Mumbai for his employer, the Royal Bank of Scotland. Whilst there, he found himself in the middle of a siege at his hotel, the Oberoi. The following 40 hours he hid in his room whilst carnage engulfed the hotel, filling the television screens around the world. This is intermingled with his life not only flashing before his eyes but being played out in the room he hopes shall not be his final resting place.
Using the beginning of a lecture, performance, flashback, text based contact with the outside world, a highly inventive back screen and 3 actors we had that beginning of a from a very nervous raconteur who wished to be aware of where his exits were that changed rapidly into the lobby of the Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai. Our narrator, Roger then took us fleeing with him into his room before we saw how he met his wife, lost his brother, managed to find his niche in the bank and then got caught in a terrorist siege in India. Flashback gave the performance more depth as the hopes, fears and dreams of an ordinary businessman were given thought and voice through other characters. The text messages played out on screen and eventual phone call with his wife reminded us that this drama was not played out in a vacuum but had real people affected by it on the outside. This connection with people, who had a personal and human interest in the events inside the hotel, helped drive the story onwards. Finishing with Roger back at home, reliving the events of that 40 hours we came full circle to comprehend the longer term effects of his ordeal.
This performance depended a great deal on the physicality of the actors as well as the trickery at the backdrops, generated or illuminated by computer. At times I felt the writing was a little secondary. The issue was about structure. Having someone onstage alone for the whole performance can end up tedious or gripping. The flashback sequences and real life messages that were relayed on screen and responded to onscreen solved some of that. The flashbacks, in particular meant that we had a second voice, another contributor, particularly the ghost of his brother to drive the narrative and give Roger someone off whom to bounce ideas.
I did feel, however, that it needed more of that dynamic as it lacked some pace and drive as the repetition of the Aberdeen Cup Winning team may well have been highly authentic but James Mackenzie, Helen Mackay and Ewan Donald are worthy of so much more. There was also a point just after half way where we were told we were about 12 hours into the event, then 24, then 36 or so in very quick time. On the one hand it could be said this allowed us to understand that time when in a stressful situation may feel like it goes at different speeds or that it lacked credibility as a framework; had time been introduced at the beginning I would have bought into the former.
All 3 actors are worthy of praise as they got the accents, were very real and some little moments were measured and beautifully observed; 1980’s disco pickups don’t get better than that. It wasn’t quite an ensemble piece but you got the feeling that they all bought into it as a piece of theatre. There was commitment to the entire performance from the whole cast. I did though want much more of them in expositional dialogue; I wanted to know much more about Roger. It did mean that at least highly dramatic moments – the phone call, why you don’t open the mini bar and when he nearly leaves – are more in limbo. It felt like they were less significant than they could have been had they been borne out of a dramatic dialogue – internal or otherwise. It needed more than a suggestion that hiding behind a sofa was a suitable defence in the face of terrorist threats.
Where I was highly impressed was in the design. Certainly the projection at times did have a clipart feel about some of the generic lift/room etc areas but intermingled with real footage, the text messaging and the overall design I thought worked wonderfully well. It gave you a feeling of how vulnerable Roger’s position was and how flimsy his defences were.
This was a performance piece with highly accented values which suggested a company that is confident in its own skin and likely to be a very valuable contributor beyond its current 10 year existence. In fact getting to see a company new to me in a venue new to Glasgow – The Cottier Kelvinbridge – was quite symbolic.
Both delivered a type of freshness that was more than the bright evening in which I saw it. The venue was the right place to see intimate theatre whilst Right Lines appeared with an assured performance that despite what I believe were fundamental flaws were a perfect match in a thought provoking evening of quality theatre.