News stories are merged, guessed and actively ignored as shredded fragments that cover the stage. A door in the centre shuts out the world and individuals from one another.
People Show’s The Last Straw welcomes us to the darkly comedic performance of two ordinary westerners, Gareth Brierley and Fiona Creese, in a kaleidoscope of confrontations, reflections and confessions facing the overload of information, news and stories of today. Their self-presentation, observations and actions is a masterpiece of verbal and physical communication as fragmented complexity and dynamic authenticity.
The Last Straw is People Show’s one hundred and thirtieth show since their debut production in 1966. Today they are the UK’s oldest experimental theatre collective and they aim to devise unconventional, daring and unpredictable theatrical work. Their creative freedom is liberated in a non-hierarchical environment to equally inspire, develop and form the final performance as a team. In this way, every show becomes a testimony of various perspectives and their momentary stance within the world.
The Last Straw attempts to capture the world in front of our very eyes as well as our selves within. The stage becomes a mirror of today – distorted, biased, clear – to reflect the absurdities: the hidden loneliness, the silent scream of excessive demands and stifled cry of powerlessness. The chaotic vast of information and impressions is condensed into bite-sized nibbles which become harder and harder to swallow. The laughter of recognition, shamefully disguised or openly celebrated, gets stuck in the throat. The radical portrayal of our mediated world artistically enlarged with twisted shocks, celebrates the very nature of our survival instincts to fit in and turn our back to the world outside our doorstep.
Brierley and Creese perform – no they are trapped on stage, unable and unwilling to support each other through this rollercoaster ride of intellectual and poetic battle of words sliding into surrealistic comedy only in the blink of an eye. They are each other’s puppets, animators and magnets for social recognition. Underlined by the stunning light atmospheres by Nigel Edwards to light the impressive design by Jessica Worrall and the intense sound design by Rob Kennedy, the two performers approach and refuse each other.
In an impressive scene of clashing global and local tragedies, both performers communicate in an alienated dialogue – a monological talking – to make themselves heard. The arising existential fear can only vanish through the cover of a desperately needed happy-ending whispered in Creese’s ears. The end culminates in another surreal dialogue of a married couple’s misunderstandings and People Show’s sharp wit of turning tragedy in comedy.
People Show’s precision, professionalism and talent are not to be missed in The Last Straw. It is a masterpiece of devising theatre to capture an image between the tensions and the relaxations of today’s society. They present a caricature-like view upon the world while being present and authentic as human beings. The door closes and leaves behind a stunned audience.
The Last Straw is a dynamic, intensive and fragmented zoom into being in the midst of and detached from today’s social life off- and online. Being deeply provocative, challenging and inspiring, it deserves more attention at the Fringe!
The Last Straw is playing at Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 26 August. For further information and tickets, click here.
Photo: Zadoc Nava