There Has Possibly Been An Incident
3 stars ***
Northern Stage @ St. Stephen’s (Venue 73)
SLIGHTLY overshadowed by David Greig’s The Events at the Traverse – a higher-profile play on almost exactly the same subject – this powerful spoken cantata for three voices, by Manchester-born poet, playwright and musician Chris Thorpe, produced by the Royal Exchange Theatre, has nonetheless been making a quiet impact on the 2013 Fringe, through the sheer strength of Thorpe’s writing, and of the material which which it deals. On a bare stage, subtly lit by Jack Knowles,a man and two women sit at microphones, script in hand, telling their stories about violent incidents. One is a woman experiencing the horror of a plane crash. One is a once-revolutionary female politician who has authorised a violet crackdown on protesters. And the third is an Anders-Breivik-like killer, justifying violence in the name of some white European identity that he feels is under terminal threat.
The problem with the play is that it is so clearly a piece that would work best on radio, focussed on the three voices and their subtle intonations, that the visible presence of the three actors – occasionally shifting to a standing position, then back again – seems more like a distraction than an advantage. It’s as if Thorpe had decided to use a Wooster-group-style microphone technique, without giving Wooster-group-style thought to how to make the visual dimensions of the show dynamic and significant. Yet for those who are interested in this year’s big Fringe theme of violence, and how we justify or survive it, this is still a fascinating text, full of insight, energy and grief.