Sunday, 8 September 2013

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


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