Saturday, April 20, 2013

Site specific theatre is really hard to do well, particularly where it involves moving an audience around a venue from location to location. Particularly when you have six separate groups of audience and bundles of fiddly props and traffic jams would be eeeeasy peasy.

Last night's #Deadinburgh was blessed with a beautiful blue-skied crisp Edinburgh evening. (In fact, the play would have been better blessed with a miserably dingy drizzly night but - selfish - for us, the exposed to the elements audience - the sunshine suited us better.)

The concept for the piece is a neat one. A deadly virus is on the loose in Edinburgh. Several of the blood-drenched gorily wide-eyed PALPs rushed past us in some agitation as a prelude. The military (my favourite - and my heart swells just thinking about it - "Royal Regiment of Scotland") have the city in lockdown. And we, the audience, have to decide what to do about it. We're presented with three options. Cull. Cure. Destroy. And so we're herded from room to room in surely Edinburgh's most astonishing venue, Summerhall (oh, Neil...), to listen to imported scientists make a case for the various options. Before it's put to the vote.

That sounds a teensy bit worthy and dull. But the concept makes for the most fascinating and engaging piece of theatre, possibly because we've not being propaganda-d by actors but presented with science by people that do science for a living, whilst being corralled into obedience by a beautifully boisterous pack of professional actors. We even got to do out own little bit of science when - but wait, I won't spoil it for you.

The use of the location is stunning. Sound, lights, side shows - all perfect, just perfect.

Having staggered in, slightly tipsy, "this could be sh*t" cynical to an evening of "enlightenment", the potential for resounding disappointment was high. But twenty minutes of being shunted about the corridors of the eerily lit already eery building and I was jumpy as a cat, clutching like a child at comfort blanket Cari's arm.

Were the soldiers not eye candy enough (Nicky Elliott was tasked with commanding and corraling our 'unit'), the academics had travelled from far and wide to take part. UCL, Manchester, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Roslin (less far, I admit), the Welcome Trust and Heriot Watt. I also met - cue Cari - "oh my goodness, there's your future husband". Not that he knows it yet.

I've just realised to my horror that I voted for the option I believed in least in the beautifully orchestrated chaos of the final panicked scene. That might explain the fool-hearted outcome. But that aside, go go and go to see this.

It's never been done before. As main military man, Robbie Mack said to me in the bar afterwards (and the band were great, btw), the only other place he could imagine doing this was Kil(l)marnock. Quite so.

An enormously bold venture from director Barra Collins and LASTheatre that would be different again if it were done anywhere else - as it undoubtedly will. But whilst it's on our doorstep, surely only those infected by the mystery pathogen would be mad enough to miss it.


Blogger Claire said...


I don't really believe in revising posts after the event - I feel it's a bit deceitful. However, in this case, a slur had been cast on another (due to my ongoing and often surprising stupidity) and it needed correcting.

I wrote originally that Robbie Mack had said that this could hardly be performed in Kilmarnock. Due to the miracle of t'internet, Mr Mack himself tracked me down to point out that this wasn't what he'd said at all. So because I cannot have such a talented chap presented as a potential fool on my blog, I have corrected the commentary.

Hats off to you, Robbie, for hunting me down!

12:01 pm  

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