mon 20/05/2024

Edinburgh Fringe 2021: Screen 9 | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2021: Screen 9

Edinburgh Fringe 2021: Screen 9

Deeply moving verbatim show from a bright new London company

Left to right: Sabrina Wu, George Rexstrew, Hannah Schunk-Hockings and David Austin-Barnes in Piccolo Theatre's mass shooting drama

The popcorn on offer as you enter the Pleasance’s performing space at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre quickly fills the air with its rich, sugary scent. It’s a smell that sets the scene nicely for a show set in a cinema, but also an aroma that takes on increasingly heavy, cloying, sickly – and inescapable – connotations as Screen 9 progresses.

Twelve people were killed and 70 injured in July 2012 at a mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at the midnight premiere of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. For its debut production, London-based Piccolo Theatre has devised a verbatim four-hander based around interviews with some of those affected, translated into four fictional characters: a mother who went with her three superhero-mad sons; an emergency nurse who found his skills in crucial demand; a young woman accompanying her army veteran boyfriend; and a young man dragging along his girlfriend. All four find their lives changed as a result of the event – some dramatically, others more slowly and subtly.

Screen 9 has its issues, to be sure. Its swerve sideways about halfway through into a rather unconvincing discussion of gun control in the US feels like a misstep, and it shies away from placing the Colorado event in the context of increasingly frequent mass shootings, and asking why they happen, focusing instead on the touching testimony of its individual victims.

But all the same, it’s an overwhelmingly intense, deeply moving work. And one whose raw accounts and slow-build power all but sweep away any concerns. There’s quite remarkably nimble, surely paced ensemble work from the young cast – Sabrina Wu, Hannah Schunk-Hockings, George Rexstrew (Piccolo’s co-artistic director) and David Austin-Barnes – each of whom brings their individual character to vivid life while contributing adeptly to the developing overall storyline. Writer/director Kate Barton has expertly edited and combined her four survivors’ voices, and she controls the work’s descent into darkness (quite literally) and back again into the light while never even approaching mawkishness. Indeed, there’s an entire lack of shock or bombast in her production: it’s quietly spoken, but all the more powerful for that.

The show’s link-up with gun violence support charity Survivors Empowered is laudable, but it also creates something of an anticlimactic conclusion to the show: in another world, Piccolo might have dared to argue for change, or looked more deeply into the contradications that underpin gun rights. But this is a bold, inspired, profoundly moving show nonetheless, and one that marks out Piccolo Theatre as a bright new theatrical presence to watch closely.

There’s an entire lack of shock or bombast: it’s quietly spoken, but all the more powerful for that


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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