Theatre reviews: Disciples | Wake Up | And... And... And...
Wake Up, The Studio, Edinburgh ****
And… And… And…, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh ****
It’s difficult to describe the special, almost revolutionary quality that companies working with artists with disabilities now bring to the theatre scene; but it clearly has something to do with the world-view of people who simply cannot live by the intensely competitive and individualistic values that now tend to shape our society, and treat those values with the furious contempt they so richly deserve.
Stellar Quines’ extraordinary new show Disciples, which played briefly at the Traverse, is a show that draws its strength from that dissident impulse, but is also often lyrical, beautiful, pensive, courageous and moving. Written by Ellen Renton, directed by Rachel Drazek, and created with a group of performers identifying as D/deaf, disabled or neurodivergent, Disciples imagines a group of women and non-binary people setting off on a journey to a different world from the one we have made, and asking one another what they actually want from the world they live in.
Disciples is in many ways an abstract show, driven by Renton’s exquisite text, a kind of extended poem of glittering fragments of experience, aspiration, anger and hope. It has qualities, though, that effortlessly sustain the rapt attention of the audience, including the sheer beauty of the gold-washed set, lighting and costumes. The show also draws completely compelling performances from actor Rana Bader, musician Sally Clay, dancer Laura Fisher, D/deaf actor Irina Vartopeanu, and Lung Ha star Emma McCaffrey; and from the Disciples Community Choir, another group of women whose presence enriches this remarkable show about a community of dissenters looking to build new worlds.
Solar Bear’s Wake Up, by contrast, is a show made by D/deaf performers that takes a more conventional form, presenting a trilogy of short plays-without-words focusing on visual theatre and movement. Ties, directed by Moira Anne McAuslan, is a heartfelt memory play about an old woman looking back on her wartime youth and marriage. Blackout, directed by Craig McCulloch, is a dark, hilarious thriller about a man who wakes up to find himself sharing the sofa with dead body – all beautifully performed by McCulloch himself and Connor Bryson.
Petre Dobre’s Time To Wake Up is an intense solo piece about a modern-day executive experiencing a nightmare journey through human history to climate disaster, with fierce sound and audio-visual accompaniment designed by Rob Willoughby; and the three together offer a rich and vivid evening of theatre.
Isla Cowan’s And…And…And... – a new show from Edinburgh’s Strangetown Touring Theatre – also focuses on nightmares of ecological disaster; but here, they dominate the life of 17-year-old activist Cassie, who has gone from litter-picking on her local beach, to obsessing about the atmospheric plastics emitted by the nearby chemical plant.
Her friend Claire, by contrast, has huge problems at home, and needs a job to keep herself and her ill mother solvent. And over 60 minutes, Cowan weaves the conflict between them into a powerful short show – beautifully performed by Caroline McKeown and Tiana Milne-Wilson.
Disciples is also at Northern Stage, Newcastle, 7-9 November. Wake Up is on tour until 14 October. And…. And… And is now touring Edinburgh schools tour, information at www.strangetown.org.uk/outreach/strange-town-touring-company/