Theatre review: Theatre Uncut, Traverse, Edinburgh

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IT STARTED during the anti-cuts demonstrations of Spring 2011, won the support of writers across the world, and went on to win multiple awards during this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

Theatre Uncut

Traverse, Edinburgh

Star rating: * * *

Yet still, the Theatre Uncut phenomenon powers on; go to its website, any time this week, and you will find – free for anyone to perform, during Theatre Uncut week – a series of ten-minute plays inspired by the battle against austerity, written by writers from Neil LaBute and David Greig to emerging stars like Scotland’s Kieran Hurley.

Last night’s Theatre Uncut at the Traverse therefore represented something of a homecoming for three of the plays on the bill, already seen in August. There were also two brand-new shows, though, in Helena Tornero’s Spanish piece Yesterday – about an undercover cop employed to initiate violence at anti-cuts rallies – and Hayley Squires’s Blondie, a chilling new UK play about a ruthless woman leader who tries to teach the British a lesson about the value of peace and freedom by briefly robbing them of it completely.

This time round, the plays are performed not by leading actors giving their services, but by ten acting students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland; it’s a shift that makes the event seem more lightweight, and more focussed on performance than substance.

Paksie Vernon breaks through that mood, though, with her disturbing performance as the leader in Blondie; and so do Jessica Hardwick and Joanne Thomson, making perfect sense of Anders Lustgarten’s Breakout, about two imprisoned girls who hardly know how to react, when they suddenly glimpse the possibility of freedom.