Prague Fringe 2012
The Edge is a one man show written, produced, directed and performed entirely by students of the Prague British School. The script doesn’t shy away from some serious material in its tale of an isolated individual struggling with mental health issues. The result is a powerful and at times hallucinatory experience, held together by a fantastic central performance.
The star of the show is drama student Yasser Shawky, who plays seven different roles in an exhausting display of physical theatre and character acting. The play showcases Yasser’s boundless energy from the outset as it opens with him doing press-ups on stage, introducing us to the protagonist Shane Johnson – a troubled youth battling some inner demons.
When we first meet him, Shane is in a prison cell, it is clear that something has gone badly wrong. Then, through a series of flashbacks and confrontations, the audience begins to piece together the sequence of events and the path of Shane’s inner journey to this point.
The fact that we are so deeply drawn into this process of unravelling is down to the charisma and talents of Yasser Shawky, as he switches seamlessly from the character of Shane to his psychologist, to his brother, to a police officer and several others, each with an appropriate style of speech and movement.
The staging is simple and effective, including some imaginative innovations to incorporate aspects of social media, as the play looks at cyber-bullying and other abuses of modern communication technology. In this respect the writers and producers show themselves to be on the pulse of some key contemporary issues.
Some scenes last a little too long, there is a sense that with tighter editing the action could be more concentrated, but at fifty minutes long the play doesn’t lose its momentum. A more serious problem is that the hallucinatory nature of the flashbacks can leave the viewer unable to distinguish between the real events and those that are only in the imagination of the central character. Whilst this does lend a feverish intensity to the story, the ambiguity is greater than it needs to be, as if the writers are trying to hide the true narrative out of anxiety that it may not be strong enough to stand by itself. They need have no such fears.
The Edge is a remarkable debut, bravely taking on the most serious and up-to-date themes, whilst launching a new acting talent into the spotlight with Yasser Shawky. This Edge truly is razor-sharp.