Theatre review: Staging Wittgenstein

Bursting balloons as a feminist analogy? You decide. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Bursting balloons as a feminist analogy? You decide. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: There’s a woman inside a giant latex balloon. It’s being filled with air by another woman using what looks like a Hoover. The balloon’s ­massive. The audience have their fingers in their ears. It’s about to burst.

C venues – C (Venue 34)


Then there’s also a third woman. She too is in a ­balloon, but this time, when it is inflated, it remains intact. She follows the instructions, read out by a disembodied voice, correctly – or so it seems. She watches her ­fellow performer sympathetically, condescendingly at times, repeatedly fail where she has succeeded. “Get in the balloon,” says the woman with the Hoover, angrily, after another loud bang reverberates around the room.

Part performance art, part circus-style act, part semi-improvised narrative, the piece feels like an analogy for perseverance over adversity, for quite literally dealing with pressure. The audience cheer when both women are finally in their balloons, in a way that would certainly suggest so. Dressed in swimsuits and hats, performers Annie Hägg and Nikita Lebedev are told by Roxanna Kadyrova how to ‘inflate’ themselves. As their athletic bodies turn into other-worldly, alien shapes within the balloons, their tortoise-like heads popping out of the top, they playfully subvert how we might expect a woman to look.

My dad thinks it’s about office culture; I think it’s about feminism; the ­programme says it’s about language. If you need further explanation, creator Blair Simmons made it as part of her New York University Dramatic Literature degree as an interpretation of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theories in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. But, really, this is the kind of show that can be whatever you want it to be. “Logic is the only impossible reason”, says a piece of paper left on a seat at the end.

Until 28 August Today 7:40pm.