Order From Chaos, Greenside @ Infirmary Street, Edinburgh * * * *
The joy in these cases is in realising that something special could be unfolding, and then enjoying the highwire act as script and cast bring home scene after scene to live up to all of that promise. Presented by Nottingham New Theatre, a student-run subsidiary of the University of Nottingham’s Student Union, writer and director Jonny Khan’s Order from Chaos is a small revelation.
Led by Lois Baglin’s lead character and narrator Jay, it begins with the story of house music from the genre’s ‘invention’ by Frankie Knuckles in Chicago in the 1970s, through the social and political effect of the UK’s illegal free party scene of the early 1990s and its criminalisation by the Criminal Justice Bill, right up to the current manifestation of rave culture.
Now, teenagers like Jay search for and share obscure tracks online, and a visit to a big club to hear “our music” is a formative social experience amid a youth culture which many experience as an exercise an academic online archaeology.
From this point the story switches to the personal, as Jay’s relationship with her elder brother and initial music procurer Riley (Morgan Beale) is pushed to the fore, as is her struggle with her rapidly disintegrating hearing.
Like a semi-sequel to Kieran Hurley’s Beats, only moved on a generation to a more insular youth culture, Khan’s piece is tender in its well-pitched pathos and understanding, and revels in sheer excitement amid the breathless rave dance sequences which Beale and the outstanding Baglin pant their way through while delivering their lines. Addressing disability, the strength of family ties and the raw power of music to bring us together and lift us up, it’s a play which deserves to be shouted about.