The thing about a Curious Directive show is that you never quite know what to expect until you’re watching it. You can presume there’ll be some mind-blowing science that is unpacked through the use of performers and physicality, and you can presume they’ll be music and projections to ease you with the narrative. What you can’t expect, though, is the level of interlocking and unfolding knowledge and curiosity that is packed into each production, sending your senses spiralling into overdrive whilst your brain is simultaneously overwhelmed by intellectual stimulus. To put it simply, a Curious Directive show attacks your nervous system through theatre; it stimulates, it captivates and it educates.
In their latest production, After The Rainfall, directed by Jack Lowe and devised with the company, Curious Directive explore four time periods, each revolving around the aftermath of the Empire. 2022 and a book on the communication of ants has rocketed in sales after the comparisons it draws upon society and the downfall of the Monarchy. 1952 and an English Government employee is attempting to find the best route for toxic waste to be transported through Egypt, whilst in 1986 Cumbria a young art college student pays homage to his brother after he went missing in the Haig Pit. Then there’s today, 2012, with Rashida as she travels across Europe to see the Rosetta Stone, an object that is on ‘temporary loan’ to the British Museum. These narratives collide and explode under the skilful direction of Lowe and the ensemble.
After The Rainfall is an extremely slick production, making full use of the King Dome at Pleasance Theatre with a versatile set by Georgia Lowe that allows the ensemble to shift between characters and movement and keeps the narrative flowing freely throughout. In other Curious Directive productions the use of science has been paramount in the production but it feels less so in After The Rainfall. The piece does explain the structure of ant colonies and how they function, but it seems to focus more on political awakenings through civil unrest and political battles over land and resources, than the mechanics of science. This doesn’t make it any less exploratory in subject, and if anything it shows the company’s attempt at remaining atop of current events with the use of the Egyptian unrest as a focus point.
There is much to be taken from the production – it does well looking at the changing implications of the British Empire across the world and at home. It projects forwards to offer a suggestive insight into some of our future battles with land resources, nuclear waste and governmental structure.
The ensemble are strong and Lowe’s direction plays between movement and dialogue, with projective work by John-Marc Gowans. There is an emotive tone to the work too, and whilst there are a few instances where you wish for more, or can see the structure used in the production, it doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. The joy is in the learning and discovery, coupled with the imaginative qualities that Curious Directive bring to a subject matter.
After The Rainfall is a strong, slick production. It manages to weave together narratives and characters with ease, whilst presenting an invigorating production. There is always a feeling of accomplishment from a Curious Directive production. They’re a young but ambitious company and there’s always excitement in looking at their work and their vision. It’s a testament to the various theatres and funders who are supporting their work and proves that even the most difficult of subject matters can be brought to life through theatre. A lively, entertaining and imaginative production – not something you’d see at the Edinburgh Fringe everyday.
After The Rainfall is playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at Pleasance Dome until 26 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.