Crocodile Fever – Traverse Theatre

Written by Meghan Tyler

Directed by Gareth Nicholls

To be blunt, Crocodile Fever is a smack in the face in all of the best ways possible. Dark, hilarious, violent, gruesome, wholesome and a clusterfuck of religious iconography and blasphemy – and you have to get behind every second. It’s a story of sisterhood; a portrayal of a timeless bond that has stood tremendously difficult trials. It has themes of female and Irish oppression and also addresses sexual abuse.  

Sisters Fianna and Alannah (Lisa Dwyer Hogg and Lucianne McEvoy) are entirely relatable. Rebellious Fianna returns home after hearing of her father’s passing; meanwhile Alannah, a mousey cleanliness freak, is tending to the house. The paralyzing anxiety McEvoy conveys, contrasting Dwyer Hogg’s fiery outbursts, is exquisite.

Tyler wanted to write something that would excite 17-year olds. Well – she has (as assuredly as a man in his twenties can say). They’ll also find it touching, disturbing, and hopefully, beyond the laughs, they see a well-crafted narrative of sisterhood, patriarchy and the ill effects of giving up on someone ‘troubled’.

Rife with imagery, Grace Smart’s set design and Rachael Canning’s puppet creation are exceptional. They perfectly capture the slow, reptilian weight of archaic patriarchy from simple physical movements to the show’s finale.

Holding no punches, Crocodile Fever takes every left-turn imaginable. It doesn’t so much throw you down the rabbit hole as toss you into the gaping maw of a hungry beast. Crocodile Fever will put people off, and it bloody well should. If it didn’t have that streak of rebellious, finger-flipping attitude, it wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does.

Photos by Lara Cappelli

Little Boxes and Stolen Futures: Double Bill – Traverse Theatre

Writers: James Beagon and Catherine Expósito

Directors: Ruth Hollyman and Catherine Expósito

Championing youth theatre in Edinburgh for over a decade, Strange Town return to the Traverse Theatre with two modern pieces; Little Boxes and Stolen Futures. Fitting for their anniversary, both productions take a leaping point of ‘future’ but differ vastly in content, narrative and structure. What they do share is a model example of Strange Town’s high standards of creativity.

Written and directed by Catherine Expósito, Little Boxes is a piece exploring the questions and troubles facing the youth today. Fuelling this issue is the very thing we love most, something you’ll likely be reading this on – our phones and social media. Labels, neat and tidy boxes we consign ourselves too. ‘Hierarchy and shite’, the pressure built-up in our own minds can often get too much for people.

Told over a year, two talented performers narrate each month, bringing their own humour, delivery and uniqueness. Despite the short run time, Expósito’s piece manages to develop character quite significantly. Little Boxes covers a variety of diverse topics, from the petty niggles which build into bullying, depression, sexuality and periods (word to the wise lads, they happen – get over yourselves).

In the closing moments, the Little Boxes cast seem ready to take a bow – though a few are missing. They bring flowers, leaving them to rest at the audience’s feet. We suspect the worst for one of the characters. What follows is instead a sucker punch of why Theatre is such an encouraging artform for the young. Creative directors Ruth Hollyman and Steve Small give such a virile slap to the audience to wake them up to the world around them that Little Boxes ending is something very few professional productions could get away with tastefully.

James Beagon’s world-building in Stolen Futures is fascinating. Housing persuasive concepts which, while recognisable from post-apocalyptic novels such as Children of Earth and Lord of the Flies, he stitches together to create something fresh. A key point of interest, which sadly isn’t looked into more is the idea of ‘pasts’ a race of monsters, humans from before the wars and destruction of the earth. These pasts are us. Me and you, not doing our part to prevent disfiguring the future.

An admirable job is done by the performers, many of whom are tremendously talented – especially younger performers Elissa Watson and Kel McNaught. They can’t save a stodgy script though. Where Little Boxesmanages to get across its message clearly, Stolen Futures is shaping up as a two-act production condensed to an hours length. While its themes are important, they are put across in a narrative which needs better pacing. What we can salvage from the multiple tribes, myths and concepts is a harrowing reminder to wake up and hold accountability.

Little Boxes and Stolen Futures offer hope. A hope that finally, this world will recognise the pertinent need to support mental health, especially in youths. Financial support and research are reasonably placed within physical ailments, so too do we need mental and emotional research. Stolen Futures offers a glimmer that if we act now, we could save the future for the present and the future.

More though, they offer hope for the future of Scottish theatre. As funding support and decisions are subject to bureaucratic mercy, the ideas springing forth from writers, producers an onstage talent of Strange Town offers a beacon of pride. Commendable efforts, with the promise of much more to come.

Review originally published for Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/little-boxes-and-stolen-futures-double-bill-traverse-theatre-edinburgh/

Information about Strange Town: http://strangetown.org.uk/theatre/

549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War

Writers: Jack Nurse and Robbie Gordon

Director: Jack Nurse

We’ve all been down the pub with this motley crew; ‘the weeman’, ‘the radge’, a ‘non-voter’ and of course, ‘the Tory’. For these pals, this is a usual evening in the seaside town of Prestonpans. They do what all friends do; drink, banter, swear and snipe at one another. They complain about the state of the country, blaming one another’s political alliances or lack thereof. A hallowed reminder of the past, an all too forgotten war, draws them to hear of a mighty similar group of men from their companion Ellen.

In 1936, across Scotland, a collection of 549 men, some entirely different in their religion, class, ideology, found one common purpose: Equality and Freedom, no matter the nation. They would make for Spain and form the Scottish regiment of the International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

Wholly intimate, the production thrives on a smaller stage. The aggressive fire in the boys’ eyes has to be seen up close, any further and we would lose the quivers of fear in these young men. Jack Nurse’s direction puts the action as close to the audience as possible. Tables, chairs and crates which have previously made up the bar become barricades. Coasters are passports, and the lads take up arms with pool cues to make for inventive prop usage.

549: Scots of the Spanish Civil War is a production reliant on solid performers. It requires a connection, which Wonder Fools easily achieve. All of our performers portray two characters, their modern selves and a past counterpart. Such as Josh Whitelaw’s Jock, his modern self an irritated young man who cares for his mother. His past reflection, a man who strives for fresh air but has explosive bursts of repressed rage. Whitelaw gives a gut-wrenching performance, as do Robbie Gordon and Rebekah Lumsden.

As Ellen, barkeep and partial narrator, Lumsden has the task of setting our story in motion. Establishing the narrative well, her manner of delivery is humorous and earthy. She plays off the lads incredibly, going between friend, mother-figure and source of blunt honesty. Being at her wits end with Jimmy (Nicholas Ralph), she bridges the gaps in character development, so it doesn’t feel forced.

Lyrics and storytelling chain this production to memories, keeping it from being a ghost story. The song components offer a feeling of camaraderie. The rendition of a miners tune, sung in the round is breath-taking, but all the more haunting as we know learn fates.

While the majority of the scripting feels natural, there are a few situations in which they exaggerate for comedic effect. They stray just a tad too far from believable to dramatic. The only other hitch is one of pacing, Nurse and Robbie Gordon’s script could have been ten minutes shorter or extended into a Two Act production. There’s a split – for the history buffs, there’s a glossing over of the complexities of Spain’s Republic, for a general theatre-going audience what politics we cover is slows momentum.

549: Scots of The Spanish Civil War is not only a reminder of the past, but it’s also a staunch punch to the gut that the issues we suffer today are not dissimilar to previous generations. That despite differences from vocal minorities, now more than ever, the bad blood between young and old shouldn’t sour. That quite often we work for the same goals, especially in the fight of freedom, equality and our European neighbours.

Review originally published for Reviews Hub: https://www.thereviewshub.com/549-scots-of-the-spanish-civil-war-traverse-theatre-edinburgh/

Production touring: http://www.wonderfools.org/549

Image contribution: Mihaela Bodlovic