Mobile marks the second installment of Paper Birds Theatre Company’s trilogy on social identity. Performed in a disused caravan before an audience of nine, the play aims to explore the emotional ambivalence caused by social mobility. After a brief, somewhat awkward ‘name game’ on deck chairs outside, the guests are invited in, offered biscuits and other hospitalities while our host gives us an overview of her situation. Her story is a familiar one: after the abrupt termination of a long term relationship, she finds herself without a flat to live in or a safety net to catch her. She is forced to return home. Perhaps in attempt to salvage some sense of progress, she shuns her mother’s actual home in preference for the caravan instead.
Sofie Hagen’s show, Shimmer Shatter, busts a few myths about introversion. It clearly indicates that being an introvert does not mean you are cold and closed-off. It doesn’t mean you won’t stand up and be very funny in front of an audience. And it doesn’t mean you are unable to tell people about the strangest and most personal aspects of your life, like the time you married a plank of wood and invited your school friends around as witnesses.
‘Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses. You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually the doors will open and you will step out into the daylight once again.’ This is author Neil Gaiman’s explanation of why we love a scary story, and it well described the experience of joining Alex Beattie and Max Scratchmann for their bloodcurdling show Edinburgh in the Shadows.
Ten interlocking scenes present separate sets of lovers, each semi-ironically riffing on different ‘aspects’ of love. The platonic ideal. ‘Simple’ carnal lust. Tortured archetypes (‘Actor’ and ‘Journalist’) playing out and struggling with their desires, counter-desires and the simple physical fact of their bodies.
It’s an irony as old as time. Women may be seen as fit subjects for every conceivable violence, but they are not suitable for fight in war. From recent conflicts in Iraq, Afganistan and elsewhere, women's roles in the armed forces seem to extend little past the 2D. Physical, mental, societal violence is fit and fair game. But for a woman to fight in times of conflict has, until very recently, been seen as a frightening or morally disgusting transgression.
Stripped down to its bloodless essentials, life is- give or take- a series of disjointed happenings, comings together and comings unstuck. There are birth pangs, there are death pangs. Big deal. John Emsile’s 50% Liability is a play that has something to say about all these things, plus one of those other elemental, everyday components: luck. Particularly, exclusively, bad luck.
How do you write anxiety? How do you act it? Two questions that present wildly unsatisfactory answers. There are the obvious ways, the tics, the coiled up physical tensions, the wild, unkempt hair, the wildly roving eyes. There’s the breathy, machine guy delivery of dialogue, or the visible signs of ‘nervous breakdown’.
It’s one the enduring footballing cliches, parked somewhere alongside “a game of two halves” and the absurdist non-sequitur “sick as a parrot”: “it’s the hope that kills you”. Like all good cliches it invites you to consider an alternative, a refashioning, a making new. John Patrick Higgins’ Every Day I Wake Up Hopeful is an attempt at just such a refashioning.
Life is just a matter of appropriate planning. A good life is a well ordered life. The fullest life is the most neatly divided life. Birth, school (“with outstanding grades”), a lucrative job, a beautiful wife, a spacious suburban house, grinning suburban children, early retirement, grinning suburban grandchildren, a cheerful death and a well peopled funeral. It’s so simple, so simply broken down.
A council worker watches on as a young man takes a running jump to throw himself off a bridge. He pulls back at the last moment. The young man, elegantly dressed, starts to converse with the dry witted street sweeper and the tone shifts. Things are revealed to be more complicated, as things often are.