Buried deep somewhere in The Lincoln Company’s ambitious physical theatre piece The Baron Conspiracy is the story of Thomas Baron, a NASA safety and quality control expert who died in suspicious circumstances after writing a damning report on the technical failings of Apollo 1.
You have to look quite hard to find the conspiracy theory of the title though, as the mimes, despite being physically reasonably accomplished, fail to communicate the plot clearly. The first scene depicts the tragedy of the first Apollo space mission effectively but after this it’s often hard to spot the link between the scene’s title on the blackboard and the movement sequences being performed.
Faye Rose McDool and Laura Roe’s piece has a strong aesthetic with its four performers in full mime costume, waving red balloons and writing on chalk boards, dust puffing into the air in pastel-coloured clouds. Despite this, The Baron Conspiracy feels like it’s still in development. The confident performances leave us baffled so the forced audience participation is awkward both to watch and to be on the receiving end of. After being singled out by one clown-faced actor, the bemused man behind me took to the stage where he was blindfolded and, red balloon in mouth, the target in a game of knife-throwing that added nothing but more confusion. I was let off the hook by comparison but still ended up with props in my lap, some of which were never explained. The cast are masters of their own bodies and the physicality of the show is impressive but they are not yet masters of interaction. It might have shattered the illusion of mime to speak to us but it would definitely have helped them out.
Although the cast and their concept are both impressive, in delivery The Baron Conspiracy exposes itself as a piece not quite ready to be put in front of an audience. The unheard tragedy of Apollo 1 – that of Baron, his findings, NASA and a train – is a gift in terms of source material. There’s so much to tell and so much mystery and conspiracy to explore, that in failing to do so intelligibly the show feels like a wasted opportunity.
The Baron Conspiracy is at C south (Venue 58) until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.