Monday, 11 August 2014

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 Reviews 4 - Horizontal Collaboration / City of the Blind / The House of Adelaida Ivanovna

Horizontal Collaboration
Traverse Theatre
Four stars
The audience becomes the public gallery in Horizontal Collaboration,
David Leddy's latest set of dark imaginings for his Fire Exit company.
Four actors who sit at a long table with laptops lined up in front of
them are the judges. With a different cast for each performance –
sometimes all men, sometimes all women, sometimes a mix of both – the
quartet read the words on the screen for the first time as they take on
the roles of United Nations lawyers at a tribunal in an un-named
African state.

The story they unveil is of Judith K, the widow of an assassinated
warlord who is accused of having sex with an enemy soldier is one of
institutionalised misogyny in a volatile country where women in power
are barely tolerated. With the actors as much in the dark as the
audience, the mixing and matching of genders may or may not be crucial
to how the text is both delivered and perceived depending on their
reactions. With an all female line-up featuring Selina Boyack, Pauline
Lynch, Claire Dargo and Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh, it became a
forensic litany of corrupted power and political survival in a
broodingly intense affair.

City Of The Blind
Traverse Theatre
Four stars
Fire Exit's companion piece to Horizontal Collaboration may deal with
similar themes of sexual abuse in high places, but this three hour
political thriller isn't a piece of theatre at all. Rather, over its
six thirty-minute episodes, writer and director David Leddy takes the 
fast-moving iconography of high-concept TV action yarns and applies
them to an online drama about UN agent Cassie's gradual exposure of a
high-level conspiracy concerning institutionalised male rape by fellow
agents in Africa.

While all of this is drawn from real-life evidence referenced at the
end of each chapter,  Leddy keeps his narrative strictly mainstream by
way of an increasingy urgent mix of surveillance footage, CCTV, email,
phone calls, text messages and audio bugs. While this lo-fi aesthetic
off-sets the lack of a Hollywood budget, it also makes for a busy
interactive study of corruption in high places laced with classical
Greek allusions. It was Cassandra, after all, who had the gift of
prophecy, but was never believed. In the current climate of distrust in
public officials, mysteriously lost files and hacking oin a grand
scale, this makes for some pretty unsettling eavesdropping.

The House of Adelaida Ivanovna
Ocean Terminal
Three stars
Visual-led European theatre isn't anything new in Edinburgh in August,
particularly in the International Festival. Tucked away as part of
Edinburgh Art Festival'a Associate Programme, however, the Hamburg and 
London-based Villa Design Group's post-modern reimagining of Gogol's
play, The Gamblers, is in danger of of slipping through some very
stylish cracks. Ostensibly an exhibition of a set modelled on a faux
Russian dacha created by Yves Saint Laurent, Than Hussein Clark, James
Connick and William Joys' version is an elaborate open-plan
construction of screens, curious cabinets and a long boardroom table at
the centre of a vast warehouse-like space on the top floor of Ocean
Terminal's Logan's Run style interior.

By night, this installation comes to life with a two-hour performance,
in which Laura Schuller's chicly conniving Adelaida holds court to a
conference of empire-builders on the make as they discuss the building
of a library to house Gogol's archive.

On one level, such a concept is a great big in-joke. As the audience is
forced to peer around the screens to check out Adelaida's latest
outfit, however, and with Edinburgh's skyline visible through a large
window,  it becomes an increasingly audacious statement on architecture
and morality.

The Herald, August 7th 2014


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