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Fringe Theatre 2018 - Check Up, Traverse Theatre, Four stars / The Abode, Underbelly, Four stars

Mark Thomas should be on prescription. While the relationship between good health and humour has long been established, the only danger of Thomas’ latest show, Check Up, is that it may make you angry enough to burst a blood vessel.

The premise is simple. On the seventieth anniversary of the National Health Service, what state is it in now? The answers, as revealed by Thomas through statistical evidence and a series of interviews with health-care workers, is not great. As he moves from office to operating theatre, Thomas finds a swathe of dedicated professionals caught in a mire of an ideology only concerned with profit.

Throughout Thomas’ urgent life and death observations, Nicolas Kent’s production manages to be righteous, moving and funny in a very necessary plea for a similar injection of humanity into those currently strangling the life out of the NHS.

Not everything is black and white in The Abode, Davey Anderson’s new play, performed with agit-prop gusto by the young ensemble from Pepperdine University, the American institution which has forged ongoing relationships with playwrights from Scotland.

Here, Anderson, director Cathy Thomas-Grant and their thirteen-strong ensemble take a discomforting peek into the appeal of extreme right wing ideology to disaffected young white men. This is seen through the eyes of Samuel, who finds a sense of belonging through an alt-right cell.

Watching such a young cast act out some of the adolescent insecurities they’re probably in the midst of squaring up to themselves is an oddly reassuring experience in a very necessary salve to the current state of fear and loathing. Anderson shows how ideas and words can be hijacked, and how those behind them are hiding in plain sight. As the cast make clear over the show’s seventy minutes, the real voice of America is here.

The Herald, August 16th 2018

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