There will always be a few shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that think they need to be avant-garde in order to stand out. This often translates to full frontal nudity and audience interaction. Addiction: The Untold Story fits into that group. A social issue play that has the potential to challenge the audience leaves us cringing at the confessional voiceovers and awkward sex scenes. Writer, Director and Producer Kenne James Guillory puts together a play with some strong ideas, but weak execution. The central character, a black bisexual woman portrayed as a predator with a sex addiction, fulfils every negative stereotype of bisexual women there is.
The play begins with a casting, two sisters (black women) asking potential actors to sit on the casting chair and perform bits of monologues. In a post #MeToo movement, this scene almost works, except that it seems to ignore the movement that has taken the film industry by storm. It would have been interesting to focus in on the similarities and stark differences between Harvey Weinstein and the protagonist in this play. Namely that the power structures, consequences and attitude towards the perpetrator, in this case a black bisexual woman, and the victims.
Where the play starts to become crude and overdone, is when one of the potential actors is asked to strip down naked. The scene is gratuitous and borders on the voyeuristic. The actor strips naked multiple times during the play in a way that became more distracting than anything else. In order to present a naked body on stage it is paramount that the audience reaction is understood too. The shock factor wears off after the few couple of minutes and instead of us focussing on the story, we are left wondering when he is going to put his clothes back on. Perhaps these scenes are written for the screen rather than the stage, where a person’s nakedness can be hidden and revealed in a way that engages us, rather than makes us uncomfortable.
There is a point when a couple of the women (wearing bikinis) try to encourage one of the audience members to join them. Had it worked, it could have been an interesting scene. Except the audience member is stopped from interacting with the dancers by their other half. The actors seemed caught off guard and unsure of what to do. With any play that uses audience participation or interaction, it is necessary to remember that audiences may not always act the way you want or need them to. And alienating audiences by making them uncomfortable may lead to audience members walking out (the couple ended up sneaking out early).
The play is underdeveloped, with big time jumps in the story line and under rehearsed acting. Running at 69 minutes (I am positive it ran over), the play is much too long and tries to tackle numerous themes without following through with any of them properly. The characters are not very believable, and the intimate scenes are awkward. While the subject matter and themes in the play are interesting, the audience is left looking at their watches to see when the chaotic mess on stage will end.
Addiction: The Untold Story is playing theSpace at Venue45 as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 27 August. For more information and tickets, click here.