Edinburgh Theater Overview: Medicine; Doppler; Screen 9; Burnt Out – review | Theater
EEdinburgh in August is just a shadow of its past. The generally crowded streets are almost empty. The atmosphere is changed, but the festivals are back, finding ways to continue in this new Covid-normal, which doesn’t seem normal at all.
Not many things seem normal in Enda Walsh’s new play, Medication, presented by the official festival. Jamie Vartan’s ensemble suggests an institution: marking sports fields on the ground, glass doors; incongruously, a drum kit. When John (Domhnall Gleeson) walks in, a young man in pale blue pajamas, hesitating over behavior, it feels like he might be a patient. He sits in a makeshift booth and, wearing headphones, is questioned by an invisible questioner, who asks him how long he’s been there and why. John cannot answer the questions. A lobster (Clare Barrett) enters, followed by an old man (Aoife Duffin). Turns out they are actors, both called Mary. A drummer arrives late (real jazz percussionist Sean Carpio). We’re assuming all three of them were hired to help John interpret his life’s storyline, featuring key moments that brought him to this place, where, as he puts it, he’s given a drug that pushes him. in darkness.
John is the membrane that connects two situations: the increasingly strained relationship between the Marys and the scenes they have performed since his own childhood, school, institutionalization. As the action escalates into frenzy, the separate situations begin to match; present and past aggressions, conflicts and emotional intimacies overlap, merge into each other.
From the jumble of confused overlaps emerges an impression of John’s particular state as a reflection of larger experiences of separation, isolation and desolation. Gleeson, in a performance of exceptional delicacy and intensity, seems to offer us the soul of John, fragile, hesitant, hurt. Barrett and Duffin, aided and encouraged by Carpio’s rhythms, thunder through emotional scales ranging from tender to explosive, giving flashes of humanity in ridiculous. The production, run by Walsh himself, is flawless, hilarious, terrifying and revealing. Unforgettable.
According to Doppler, anti-hero of a 2004 satirical novel by Norwegian writer Erlend Loe, people don’t like him because he doesn’t like them. That’s right, he’s hard to love. Upon learning of the death of the father he never knew, Doppler abandoned wife, son (four) and daughter (15) for the freedom of the forest, here to live in splendid hunter-gatherer, anti-consumerist isolation. . The Grid Iron theater company locates the new Doppler camp in a veritable National Trust for Scotland forest. We crouch down on stuffed tree stumps in a grassy clearing; a blowing west wind blows smoke from a campfire on our faces (until the front of the house sprinkles it with water).
After killing a moose (played by Sean Hay; also the son, Düsseldorf and trader), Doppler adopts his calf (Chloe-Ann Tylor, with hairy ears; his roles also include wife, daughter and “the reactionary”). Macabre sound effects accompany the evisceration (performed in public view by musician and sound designer Nik Paget-Tomlinson). When Doppler’s beloved loneliness is shattered by visitors, he decides to take his son on a “military campaign” in search of new forests, leaving behind his financially troubled daughter, newborn, and wife. Keith Fleming’s performance as a Doppler is glorious in his energy and commitment. In this real world setting, however, the satire is blunt and the character so horribly convincing that it’s hard to take pleasure in spending time with him.
Screen 9 takes us into the misanthropy of the real world. This second production by the young British troupe Piccolo Theater (not to be confused with the Milan company), focuses on a mass shoot. Nine years ago, in Aurora, Colorado, an audience moved into a local multiplex to watch the midnight premiere of The dark knight rises. Here in Edinburgh, an audience sits in an auditorium. We are facing a screen in front of which Mary, Alex, Katy and Jonny tell us what they were doing that day in July. They go down into the auditorium, disperse among us, find seats. For them, the Batman movie is about to begin. He is interrupted by gunshots. We appear to be suspended by their side as they relive three minutes of carnage, recounting their experiences, impressions and emotions. Marie was injured; one of his sons was killed, as were Alex and Katy’s partners. A total of 13 people died and 70 were injured.
Writer and director Kate Barton created Screen 9 from real accounts of events by those directly affected, amalgamating testimonies to develop the four characters in front of us. The script and the performances are simple, direct, incisive and engaging. A surprisingly shocking moment comes during a discussion between the characters, which takes place sometime after the event. After all that has happened, Jonny is making a strong case for the right to bear arms. They agree that they disagree on this point, but all agree with Mary that the way to approach the pain they are all living with is to “spread kindness.”
Burnt is British artist Penny Chivas’ response to the ‘black summer’ fires of 2020 in her native Australia and the global warming that fueled them. Alone on stage, wearing a white jumpsuit, Chivas combines words and movement to communicate how her personal experience interconnects with larger issues: her father is an environmental geochemist whose work maps climate change. The combination is ambitious and does not appear to be fully worked out yet. The faint lines of sight of the church nave venue mean that the movement sequences on the ground are obstructed. To cover up its flaws, the show requires an intimacy that the place cannot offer.
Ultimately, one thing is normal about this year’s festival: the work is as varied, unpredictable and stimulating as ever.
Ratings (out of five)
Screen 9 ??