Verbatopolis is the germ of something excellent. For a school Fringe production, this is an inventive and engaging piece.
The vast cast of 17 lead the audience through a series of scenarios, snapshots of contemporary life. These momentary fragments range from small-talk breaking down between two people in a café, to casual playground misogyny, to bumpy train rides.
Tying these scenes together is a ‘professor’, bow-tie and oversized jacket in-tow, who explains that the piece should be taken as a staged lecture. He reveals that the scenes all took place on the same minute of the same day, collected by use of a time machine. The professor is bewildered by the techniques of the actors, which makes for some pretty funny ironic comments about their ‘movement clothes’ and their rehearsal processes.
In its torrent of fragmented scenes, Verbatopolis resembles Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information – the company build up a kaleidoscopic picture of a single synchronous moment, isolating each scene from the context that produced it, resisting the satisfaction of a diachronic narrative form.
This production show its immaturity. Sometimes it cleverly embraces this – in one scene, for instance, a boy jokes to his friend that another boy doesn’t know what a MILF is, before sheepishly asking the friend if he knows himself. When they’re playing to age, the young actors are at their most sensitive, producing glimpses of insight and candour.
Some of the scenes are a bit careless, and (as might be expected) the performances are quite uneven across the large cast. The production suffers from trying to explain itself a little too much, rather than letting the scenes do the talking; the professor figure begins to get in the way as the production progresses.
With a bit of tightening in the writing and performances, Verbatopolis could turn into a very sharp piece of school theatre.
Verbatopolis played at C (Venue 34) as part of the Edinburgh Fringe. For more information see the Edinburgh Fringe website.