‘275000 Britons go missing each year’: This is the first thing you see when you look at the ‘Missing’ leaflet that is thrown at you in the street. It’s a horrible statistic and part of you denies it because we don’t get to hear about all these people.
If a 21 year old man goes missing there is a very different response from the media to, for example, that of when Madeleine McCann went missing which sparked a manhunt which is still ongoing today. ‘Missing’ explores how knowing a missing person can affect the family, friends, police officers or anyone who gets involved in a case like this.
This piece establishes that the remaining friends and family could be considered victims of a missing person, with no closure or definitive answers. The play uses verbatim accounts to express the opinions and feelings of people involved in various missing cases.
The Engineer Theatre Group present each case differently in a variety of ways including physical theatre, interviews, monologues, sound collages and much more. This assortment of techniques keep the audience interested and make them think about the huge problem that missing people have become in our country.
The piece is extremely well executed; the actors work perfectly in sync with each other, the voice-overs, and the box props which help set the scene. The script cleverly entwines different testimonies together, resulting in a powerful and memorable performance.
This is a beautiful piece of theatre that causes the audience to question the system set in place to deal with missing people. It raises issues that need to be heard and does so in an eloquent and intriguing way.
Reviewed by Bethann Hastelow. Images courtesy of Underbelly.
On entering the Beneath space at the Pleasance Courtyard I was curious. The house lights came down and we heard a scuffle and a few bumps, then a crouched figure come on stage on his hands and knees. It eventually became obvious that this is how Robert Softley gets around.
When he faced the audience and started talking it became apparent that he had a speech impediment too. He immediately made light of all of these things, putting the audience at ease through humour. Within minutes his bubbly cheeky and refreshing personality had dispelled any preconceptions of disability that people may have had.
Throughout the piece he continued to talk light-heartedly of his condition but also added in poignant and thought provoking moments. He talked of how he couldn’t take his brother to the doctors without being asked questions about his own health, go to the gym without being stared at or even sleep next to someone without having an attack of spasms.
He cleverly conveys his message through images and videos on a projected screen behind him as well as certain important words, which he said throughout his monologue. He also conversed with a voice-over of a doctor asking him questions; a powerful device that demonstrated Softley’s vulnerability to the insensitivity of those he relies on to look after him.
My overall impression of the piece was how brave this man was to (literally) bare all and tell us what it’s like to be different. It is an extremely moving piece that will stay with you longer than most others at the festival this year.
Reviewed by Bethan Hastelow. Image Courtesy of Pleasance.
‘Ali J’ confronts the issue of the partition of British India on the basis of differing religious ideals. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the founder of Pakistan and a major part of the partition, which resulted in over a million people being killed and those who did survive were homeless. On his deathbed he is said to have lamented ‘Pakistan was my greatest blunder’. Pakistan was the new home of the Indian Muslim community.
The play focuses on a Muslim man in the present day , so don’t worry if your Indian history isn’t up to scratch. The protagonist, Ali J is in jail for a crime he did not commit and has been persecuted for being a Muslim in a mainly Hindu community. When we meet him he’s on death row. He talks directly to us as he believes we are a delusion caused by his close proximity to death. Because of this connection, he tells us of his past.
This one-man show takes us on a journey throughout his life and across continents. You do not question the fact that the set does not change; the precise placement of each movement ensures that the audience knows exactly where in his memory Ali J is. The character changes his mood in almost a Jekyll and Hyde fashion; one moment deliriously happy with the love of his life and the next imprisoned and angry at the world that has persecuted him for his religion.
Through a beautifully written script and excellent performance work we are transported to Ali J’s jail cell and can see the struggle within him and India; and it makes us wonder, are either of them ready to change? It’s an interesting and thought provoking show that inspires viewers to take a new interest in Indian history.
Reviewed by Bethan Hastelow.
A lot of words can be used to describe John Hirsch: Controversial, eccentric, original, intimidating, a colossus. However this is only half the story.
He fought through the horrific tragedy of being a Hungarian refugee during the holocaust after losing all his family to the German regime. But despite this terrifying start in life, he became one of the most influential directors of all time and revolutionised the Canadian theatre scene till the day he died in 1989.
This play is a homage to the man who created so many iconic pieces and inspired thousands of directors, including the director of this piece, Paul Thompson. Alon Nashman is fantastically versatile in this play; he almost seems schizophrenic with the amount of multi-roling he uses. A variety of accents, mannerisms and emotions come flooding out of each character, though this does not seem laboured or cumbersome but effortless and unquestionable.
Other than Nashman there is only one other performer, a stage hand, who assists in costume and set changes but can be seen as Hirsch’s whipping boy, something which the protagonist refers to himself near the end of the play.
‘Hirsch’ is an intelligent play that requires concentration the whole way through, though the endearing character of the narrator does make this easier. There are so many characters being performed all at once… at one point there was a conversation between four people (with only one on stage). Despite this being very impressive, it makes for a more challenging watch. Nevertheless, one to certainly go and see.
Reviewed by Bethan Hastelow. Images courtesy of Pleasance.
In the summer of 2011 the London riots shook the UK. This piece focuses on a boy and his mother who are affected by those riots, specifically the ones that occurred around their home in Chalk Farm.
An eerie atmosphere is set up as the audience walk in. Screens show static and pulsating music plays whilst the two actors stare out at the audience. This has an unnerving effect, putting the audience on edge and setting the tone perfectly for the rest of the piece.
There are only two actors but both give superb performances, showing a huge range of emotions and making the audience consider how they would act in the same circumstances. They mainly speak directly to the audience, trying to get them to understand the reasons behind their actions which, in their opinion, are the ‘right thing to do’. We see through the eyes of Jamie, a small child who wants to protect the city like a ‘bat angel’ but then grows up and becomes disillusioned with his life on a Chalk Farm estate. We see him grow further away from his mother and eventually fall into anarchy, but not for the reasons you may think.
As the riots only occurred recently, ‘Chalk Farm’ is current and effective, striking a chord with those of us who watched the chaos unfold from our television screens. It hones in on public opinion during that time; calling the rioters ‘swine’ ‘chavs’ and other names, and challenges your way of thinking. It’s an intelligent piece, which tests the audience’s morality as well as being serious in its depiction of harrowing consequences.
‘Chalk Farm’ is a hard-hitting piece of drama that is thoroughly enjoyable, yet thought provoking, and begs the question; what would you do in that situation?
‘Chalk Farm’ is showing throughout August at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh Festival.
Reviewed by Bethan Hastelow.