Daily Archives: August 20, 2010

Teenage Riot

THEATRE
Teenage Riot
Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)
4 stars ****

THE BELGIAN company Ontroerend Goed have become true stars of the Fringe over the last four years, with a series of fierce alternations between intensely adult one-on-one theatre, and shows created with a teenage cast that try to embody the emotional, political and erotic chaos of post-modern teenage experience.

In Teenage Riot, playing in the big space of Traverse One, a cast of eight young people retreat into an onstage cube which they call a shack, a kind of den decorated inside with a fierce Sixties-style collage of cut-out images and painted patterns, toy-sized drawings and (for furniture) brightly-coloured babies’ car seats.  Inside the shack, they squirm and wriggle and snog and talk, often about sex, but also about the shameful mixed signals they receive from the adult world around them on everything from drugs to lies.

Images of what is going on in the shack  are projected live onto its front surface, as the kids talk, writhe and perform for a hand-held camera.  And occasionally, they emerge from the shack – sometimes through a trapdoor on top of it – to talk to us directly, inviting us to “at least solve some problems, before you land them on my plate”; at one point, they even turn the camera onto the largely middle-aged audience, so that they can splatter the images of our smug and jowly faces with tomatoes.

The whole show lasts only 55 minutes, and is followed by an invitation to inspect the shack from the inside; it’s a formidable little installation, to add to an already fairly mind-blowing combination of live performance and screen imagery.  In the world of theatre, there’s plenty of work created by adults for children and young people, and plenty created by young companies for audiences of their own age.  This, though, looks like that rare thing; a show created by young people for adults, to both challenge and disturb them.  And for all the risks it takes – not least by exposing so much young teenage flesh to the rheumy eyes of the older generation – I think it works.

Joyce McMillan
Until 29 August
p. 294

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Uber Hate Gang

THEATRE
Uber Hate Gang
Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61)
3 stars ***

THERE ARE EXPLOSIVE quantities of talent on stage in Philip Stokes’s latest play Uber Hate Gang, presented by Horizon Arts of West Yorkshire.  Best known on the Fringe for last year’s hit Heroin(e) For Breakfast, Stokes is a playwright who take no prisoners; and this new show is in-your-face theatre with a vengeance, as it takes us into the bunker of a four-man white terrorist gang with a charismatic, domineering leader called Andrew – powerfully played by Gareth Webber – plus a classic sidekick character, and two blonde women in Nazi-babe gear who compete for Andrew’s favours.  The drama begins by roundly abusing the audience for its feebleness in not walking out (“they think it’s a play”, yells Andrew, as if it somehow wasn’t), and then veers towards the surreal when the gang’s  plans for a major bomb blast are interrupted by a children’s entertainer called Uncle Ted, who wanders into their bunker.

The potential here is huge; but the brute fact about the play is that most of its theatrical energy comes from the reification and imitation of the kind of behaviour it claims to condemn.  If a play aims, as this one does, to make people ashamed of adopting violent and fascistic attitudes, then it should find ways of expressing alternative world-views that are equally compelling, sexy and beautiful; rather than reducing them to a surreal joke, embodied by a gormless kids’ entertainer.

Joyce McMillan
Until 29 August
p.301.

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