Review: The North! The North!, Summerhall

4.0

This dark new myth is brought to us by Christopher Harrison, who uses his unique storytelling ability to bring to life a reimagined England full of mystery and fear.

As the audience arrives in the venue, we are welcomed by Harrison as if we are entering someone’s workshop. The venue is an old, wooden lecture theatre, and this combined with the furniture of a desk scattered with illustrations, makes us feel as though we are entering the inner workings of his mind.

The story is set in an England where a deep chasm has been ripped through the North and South. Our narrator must travel from the land of sweaty clubs and big cities in the South to confront his own family’s history and tragedy in the North. The whole play is drenched in mystery from start to finish; there is dark family history, a faceless but omnipotent ‘bad prince’, and elements of magic. It is an unexpected fairy tale that leaves you thinking for a long time after you have walked away from it. It is hard to shake the feeling that there is more to this show than we can at first understand.

As well as Harrisson’s captivating storytelling, the play also relies on his evocative use of animation and puppetry. Harrisson demonstrates multiple talents in his work as a cartoonist as well as a theatre maker. His intriguing drawings are projected cleverly onto his props and backdrop as animation, telling the story with spellbinding singularity. Quirky, sometimes scary cartoons add a feeling of mystery and horror to this imagined world.

The occasional use of puppets is simple, but the impact is huge. Everyday objects like a piece of tissue can become a young girl, a baby, and the torn apart land of England itself. The lighting used creates towering shadows of Harrisson and his puppets. In the most ominous scenes, the stage is consumed by shadow, giving a sense of horror to the show which compliments the sinister story perfectly.

In many ways, the play resists interpretation. It is at once personal and universal, and it is difficult to place in time or context. The characters we meet throughout the play feel almost Darwinian, but modern technology is also present throughout.

This play is a sinister, thought provoking journey through a world that is not so much a dystopia as it is a grim fairytale of a reimagined present.

The North! The North! played at Summerhall until August 27. For more information, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/north-the-north