FringeReview Scotland 2015
This is not the story about four women – an aunt and three nieces – who boarded themselves into their home and then 40 days later, died of starvation. And so it begins with an after show discussion about a show about lip reading that is comically turned into a chilling story about four women, an aunt and three nieces, we don’t have any idea what they said, weren’t there and didn’t know them.
The set up unfolds in front of our eyes as Bush Moukarzel and Adam Welsh set up the after show discussion with three plastic chairs, an apple mac and a microphone on a lead which are set against a plain backdrop. Moukarzel starts the show off with an introduction and upon the entrance of David Heap, our actor and lip reader from this incredible show we are treated to his skills. The comic double act onstage that is occasionally interrupted or supported by a technician with a neat line in timing continues whilst we have a number of video clips that help us understand the show we never saw as we prepare for the event we can hardly imagine. Then things change. Our lip reader informs us that he had worked with the Garda in looking into the tragedy of the four women who committed suicide through starvation. He introduces us to the scene, the backdrop changes into a see through room that we enter along with a team of people ready to clean up who then transform into the four women. Now in imagined space and an event we can hardly contemplate we hear and see what may have been their final hours – or it might just have easily not been.
Sometimes there are performances that make you sit up and take notice. Having won a plethora of awards already any praise that I may be able to heap on here will simply be added to the applause this performance deserves. Having already enjoyed a highly successful Edinburgh Fringe run you can see how this 75 minute performance has been developed into a taught rollercoaster of emotion and challenge. The format has everything theatrical within its purview. The set up is funny and charming, drawing us into the core of the performance. Having the video clips and standard onstage technical hiccup geek makes for some chuckles but it is when the atmosphere changes that I felt something I have not felt for many years.
The chill that ran down my back when it changes from the after show performance to the room with the four women, them in amongst the bin bags was unbelievably effective. I have seen many a performance attempt to achieve this but few that have the correct understanding of theatre and how to work an audience to achieve it. The direction is taught, the writing crisp and the use of theatre arts inspiring.
What it achieves is a theatrical exploration of the possibilities of what happened, the endless lack of understanding from which we suffer when facing this type of event and left an indelible impression on me. I have never really understood what total theatre might be but I know that Lippy is something that has brought me closer to the definition.
The set was simple yet complex which suited all of the performance. The performances were nuanced and ensemble in a way that younger companies could do well to study. The creative input of the video, costume, props, interruptions and soundscape worked to provide a fulfilling view and sound.
If I had any form of criticism then it was perhaps that the final video was over long but it takes time to clear a set – must have helped in the cramped pressure of the Fringe! But that was a minor gripe in what is my theatrical highlight of the year so far. It challenges my cynical view of the Fringe in Edinburgh being overly stacked with worthy but less than inspiring shows. Dead Centre – Bush Moukarzel and Ben Kidd – are to be lauded. They should also be followed, given keys to some fairy kingdom and challenged to do it all again.