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Although online performances have now become the norm, the lack of applause never fails to freak me out. I’m sure I’m not the only one who misses applauding alongside fellow audience members and showing appreciation for the actors. In a piece full of musical numbers, this was something I was acutely aware of during the live-streamed performance of Raft.
From its description, Raft is a new, one-act musical about four women who have been trapped on a raft, by a sea monster. Amy Clayton and Justin Cartledge, creators of this show and founders of Early Door Productions take pride in their sole aim of producing high quality non-professional theatre.
Something that I always keep in mind whilst writing reviews, is that I am watching someone’s work. A performance is an event to be proud of and is the culmination of weeks of hard graft — this is a huge achievement in itself. In saying that, I also have to be honest and sometimes that can be tricky. Unfortunately, in this case, I was not a fan of this piece.
The script is structured in a truly bizarre and rather dysfunctional way; less than 5 minutes in, we’re listening to an emotional ballad-type song as a character reminisces and reflects, but we feel nothing. We haven’t had a chance to get to know or connect to these characters, and to be honest, we don’t really get to at any point in the show. For the majority of Raft, the performers scream at each other and, as their performance style verges into the point of melodrama, we have no clarity on their dynamic with one another.
Story-wise, it is all pretty depressing. There is one song about hope, which gives the piece a bit of emotional variety and much needed depth, however, dramatically, it comes at a very odd point in the performance.
Hidden in there, there is a wonderfully written monologue about a women’s relationship to her father, featuring a pair of sneakers. Giving the character stakes to play with, this then leads into a melodic song and we, as the audience, can empathise, because it comes from somewhere, emotionally.
At the end of the show, there are a few screens explaining what was actually going on in the play; how the sea monster holding these women on a raft was a metaphor for an abuser holding girls hostage. Unfortunately, if you have to explain something like this, because the 50-minute performance hasn’t made sense, the piece doesn’t have much of an impact at all. Raft reminded me of the beauty and essence of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – that anyone can perform. It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks, as long as you’re having fun.
Raft available to stream online. For more information and tickets, see The Space online.