Two people from very different backgrounds are profoundly affected by rising sea levels in this dystopian imagining of the near future: one from an English coastal town, who sees winds and high tides threaten her home; the other a West Bengalese man whose entire island is set to vanish beneath the ungrateful waves. The Edge has the potential to be a provocative exploration of climate change, but falters and doesn’t quite achieve this objective.
The set is cleverly designed and works well with elements of performance from acting to technical aspects, giving the impression of a small island on the brink of submersion by the water surrounding it. The fact that this is not a traditional set makes the piece more interesting, and its simplicity lends itself to the rich descriptions of people and locations set out by the actors.
Use of sound design is an atmospheric backing to the large amount of monologue, aiding the audience in imagining the richly described locations conveyed by the actors; while the clever use of lighting and projections effectively highlight important plot points, such as actors swimming, the importance of the sea throughout the story, and the tangled web of family trees that brings us to where we are today.
However, using only two actors always means a show is in danger of becoming static, and the script doesn’t help here. In the beginning the play is interestingly wordy, with actors introducing elements of their real lives and discussing their family origins. However once this interplay ends, the significant degree of separation between the two actors, despite their intertwining story, means that the play quickly becomes static. Although set and sound design are employed creatively, it doesn’t really make up for the sheer wordiness of the show, which is a lot to take in and which stops resonating as soon as it becomes a struggle to process.
Tim Lewis and Balvinder Sopal are accomplished performers, but the script doesn’t really give them room to be dynamic. One notable flaw is that the characters are narrated in the third person, with only rare moments in which the actors actually embody them, meaning that we struggle to see them as complete people or identify with the problems they face.
On the whole The Edge is a fair effort, but left me quickly bored and unable to concentrate due to the intense wordiness of the piece. I wished there were other elements that could successfully break up the monotony of the long uninterrupted monologues – unfortunately sound, lighting, and projections didn’t quite manage it. The Edge felt like a work in progress, and with some more work could be a very special piece – but it’ll need some serious rewriting before that’s true.
The Edge played Rich Mix Shoreditch on 18 October and returns to Canada Water Culture Space on 4 November. For more information and tickets for later London shows, see the Transport Theatre website. Photo by Zbigniew Kotkiewigz.