US president Donald Trump’s insistence on building a wall on the border of Mexico and the United States seems to have captured the imagination of a number of theatre-makers, and inspired them to expand upon themes of physical division between societies, imagined and real.
MUSICALS & OPERA
Wall! A Thinly Veiled Metaphor For Our Current Political Landscape Disguised As A New American Musical
C (Venue 34)
Wall 2.0! A Thinly Veiled Manifesto For How To Mend Our Broken World Disguised As A New American Musical
C (Venue 34)
ZOO (Venue 124)
Walls And Bridges
theSpace on North Bridge (Venue 36)
Across the shows selected here – exclusively from young companies, which may tell us something about the concerns of a generation – the results are to a degree flawed, but still intriguing.
There are two reactions to Wall! A Thinly Veiled Metaphor For Our Current Political Landscape Disguised As A New American Musical and Wall 2.0! A Thinly Veiled Manifesto For How To Mend Our Broken World Disguised As A New American Musical, and the most appropriate for most seasoned Fringe-goers would be to instantly dismiss both on account of the attention-demanding, column-inch-hogging extended titles, tear up the flyers and stay well away (the other, less experienced reaction is to have your attention grabbed and pop along anyway, unsure of what else to see). Unusually, these reactions might be a shame in this instance. Written and composed by the clearly very talented young musician Jake Brasch, and directed by faculty heads Eli Carpenter and Shawn Hann, this ambitious, expansive diptych of plays from Denver School of the Arts both just about land on their feet.
Each tells of the same future, albeit separated by generations; in Wall!, puritanical rural folk lead a simple conservative life, worshipping the great wall which runs through their land, while elsewhere, self-satisfied, health-conscious liberals obsessed with progress at the expense of history want to tear down their wall. When the wall – the same wall, seen from either side – comes down, these peoples finally face one another, and in Wall 2.0! they live as one. But cracks are beginning to erupt again.
Frankly, for a student cast – and there are inherent deficiencies there in terms of ability levels and so on – it’s all very well put together, with the weighty ensemble well utilised, the comedy occasionally very funny (the tap-dancing poo emoji is a highlight) and the figure-eight structure of two plays which make perfect sense if you only see one part a real highlight, thanks to Brasch.
Both plays add up to a reasonably successful piece of student theatre, albeit not nearly as compelling as The Flame Collective’s Walls, a winner at this year’s London Student Drama Festival and the only piece here which hits a decent level of professionalism.
It’s also the only piece which has the courage to tackle real events, deftly interweaving two settings which help shine a light on where we are today. Although the political causes and symptoms of both are very different, the tales of a pair of under-suspicion sisters in the GDR’s East Berlin of the 1980s and an 2016’s desperately hopeful Syrian refugee attempting to make it from Calais to his family in Birmingham weave together the same tangible sense of having to break through an impregnable barrier because your life literally depends on it. A live backing of violin and bouzouki lends texture to some more than capable performances.
Finally, Walls And Bridges also takes the sci-fi approach, imagining a future Scotland walled off from England and controlled by the CIA and a corporate USA. Telling tales of censored creatives, state surveillance and fear of disappearance, the dark and paranoid narrative is stodgy, but as a showcase for producer Acting Coach Scotland, the piece reveals some capable young performers within its ranks.
Wall! A Thinly Veiled Metaphor For Our Current Political Landscape Disguised As A New American Musical until 15 August. Today 10.30am. Wall 2.0! A Thinly Veiled Manifesto For How To Mend Our Broken World Disguised As A New American Musical until 15 August. Today 11: 45pm. Walls until 12 August. Today 12.45pm. Walls And Bridges until 26 August. Today 2:20pm.