Fringe Theatre 2013 - Brand New Ancients – Traverse Theatre – five stars Our Glass House – Wester Hailes – four stars
It may have something to do with the economies of scale, but spoken-word and performance poetry is becoming increasingly prevalent on the Fringe, and Kate Tempest's Brand New Ancients, which takes up the Traverse's late-night slot until this weekend, is a perfect example of an old oral tradition van be reinvented for the twenty-first century. In a South London patois, Tempest's epic seventy-minute verse takes Greek mythology by the scruff of the neck and relocates it to the spit and sawdust streets, where everyday tragedies happen in pubs and houses where the new gods dwell. Initially seen as a scratch performance at Summerhall on last year's Fringe, and now co-produced with Battersea Arts Centre, Brand New Ancients is performed by Tempest with a four-piece band who add a jittering urban back-beat to a story already full of life and soul. Tempest's delivery of a work that resembles a hipper, estuarised take on Tony Harrison's V is beguiling. As her story unfolds like a soap opera on a grand scale, she recites, raps and rolls with the punches of the verse in a glorious telling that's as much gig as theatre performance in a show of white trash Greek tragedy that breathes rude life into old stories with thrilling results. The Common Wealth Theatre Company's Our Glass House is performed in an actual house in Wester Hailes, where four women, one man and a little boy lay bare a litany of horror stories taken from real-life incidents of domestic abuse. As an audience of thirty or so move from room to room, little fragments of each story can be eavesdropped on, whether its the woman whose husband slammed the piano lid on her hands so she couldn't play anymore, or the teenage girl whose boyfriend nearly drowns her in the bath for talking to another boy. All the while the little boy moves around each floor, drawing pictures house that were once safe, but which are now broken forever. Researched, created and directed by Evie Manning and Rhiannon White, this is pretty harrowing but essential stuff, which highlights still hidden crimes in one of the most theatrically powerful ways imaginable.
The Herald, August 23rd ends