Hello there readers, and welcome to what is the first ‘review’ for the shows that I went to see during the Edinburgh Fringe! As I explained during my generic ‘blues’ post about the festival, I’m writing about all the shows that I went to see in order to express just how talented each individual I got to watch on their specific stage was. Walking up and down the Royal Mile and the connecting streets many a time made me realise just how much talent the United Kingdom really does have. When it’s all concentrated in such a small radius, it’s extremely difficult to decide which shows to go along and see. However, as soon as I heard about ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ at the Pleasance Courtyard, I knew I had to go! I was definitely not disappointed. Even though this was the only ‘play’ I saw, its intricate and clever use of music and audio-visual technology really helped to bring the show to life. In fact, I think the use of the AV was of a much higher standard than the assumption that all Fringe shows are rushed. It was a strong leader for showing just how extra visuals can tie loose ends together, and allow the audience to fully understand what was going on.
Okay, so a little bit more about the company and why I went along to the show! Before I went to the Fringe, I stated on Facebook that I was going and I wondered what shows I should go and see. My friend Gemma messaged me on Facebook with all the information I needed for the show and I planned it into my itinerary (note to everyone, if ever you go to the Fringe, MAKE AN ITINERARY and do not stray from it, it will save your life!). I’d also not seen Gemma in years, so it was lovely to see her perform once again! It gave me flashbacks of performing as a little 12 year old in Anything Goes with her, as well as classic Stagecoach days. I also saw my drama teacher from Stagecoach walking about in Edinburgh during my time there, and we had a lovely catch up which was great and most definitely needed!
Anyway, Births, Deaths and Marriages was performed by the New Wolsey Theatre group from Ipswich. This was also clear throughout the piece itself, as the pictures and script relied around English geographical and train knowledge from Ipswich. Clearly, this showed how the piece came from home ideas, however it still worked perfectly in a Fringe situation when they were all hundreds of miles from home. The New Wolsey Theatre have taken up shows to previous Fringes, such as ‘Party Pieces’ and ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, however this was the first time that I had seen the group perform, and it was wonderful! From researching a tiny bit about the performance itself after the show, the show aimed to look at identity politics and the decision making surrounding how someone self-identities themselves and whether they want to be known as that or change. This was made extremely clear during the show, with the characters all having simplistic storylines that could easily be followed throughout the hour-long play. They were also cleverly woven into each other, and it most definitely worked having three separate stories. Although stated in an online interview that there were initially going to be four stories, with the fourth about a man who didn’t know whether he wanted to inherit his dad’s business, I personally think it works with a triad of stories, as this succinctly fits in with the title.
The first section of the story introduced us to all the characters, and while this was confusing to understand all the parts of the story in isolation, this was vital towards fully understanding their characters by the end of the play. We were introduced to a young person who didn’t know whether he had enough get-up-and-go in order to fully live. The audience also sees a young man who is about to become a father and whether his family will still treat him the same. As well as this, there are a couple who are troubled with their relationship, with attachment issues prevalent throughout the performance. All of these stories worked so well with each other to a contemporary audience due to their modern-day relevance. The amount of times I’m seeing people on Facebook and Twitter who are in troubling relationships, being treated poorly or wondering what to do with themselves is ever-increasing. This play really tackles with the notion of individuality and identity politics, staying true to yourself even though at the time it could potentially be the hardest decision that you’ve faced for a long time.
The cast are all absolutely incredible, and I’m certain that they could all go onto bigger and wonderful things! With each group project like this, there is always the chance that one person will dominate the performance, however each person had an equal role within the performance. This demonstrated just how well they all work together both on stage and in the rehearsal process. The cast form the centre of this devised production, and are all extremely talented. In particular, the physical theatre moment with flips and jumps showed just how much trust the cast had with each other, as well as the shared use of the screen controls. The tight work between the script and when the screen display changed clearly showed how well each cast member knew what they were working with, and there were no slip-ups (well, at least evident to me) unlike other shows I saw that had clear, obvious tech faults. The screen running alongside the action could be seen as a feature that was out of touch with the natural plotlines. But, the abstract nature of the screen was just brilliant, and effective in displaying the inner thoughts of the character. This worked especially well when the young man with the backpack was talking to the other characters and he was speaking totally different thoughts to what he was saying, something which we’ve all found ourselves doing in order to give the impression that you are comfortable in a situation when you may be worried/anxious.
The characters may all be young people, but they are all portrayed as ‘adult’, heightening the angst of adolescence that cannot be hidden – a negative consequence of the strong use of social media. Everyone feels as if someone is living a better life than them, nobody is truly happy. This play aims to combat that, showing that teenagers are not senseless, but normal people trying to make sense of what adulthood is actually like. For example, the monologue spoken by the dad-to-be showed just how scared a young dad can be, something which the media does not wholly present as this juxtaposes the strong ‘lad’ culture of the 21st century. Also, the couple who are breaking up over a tough relationship demonstrate their deteriorating relationship through the man singing a love song. This, whilst I shouldn’t have it funny, was indeed hilarious. But, it provided a slight bit of light relief to a show in an otherwise melancholy moment during the play.
What the play does teach is how new family relationships and changes really do impact us as a person, and how we make sense of them will further affect our future decisions. Whether we choose to end a life totally, keep life the same, or undergo a full change in our lives, Births, Deaths and Marriages are ultimately the biggest things we will face as a human. I left the theatre feeling that I had seen a play that has not yet been fully recognised for its work. Although performed in a decent venue for the Fringe (you’ll see in later reviews that I watched a show in a real-life bunker!), the show was not sold out. I don’t know if this was because it was a Tuesday, but it definitely deserves to be a sell-out show!
Now, to review the show, I would use the broken love-heart emoji but not because it was a bad show! It did what it set out to do, which was to show how friendly and sexual relationships can break apart naturally and how we display our feelings towards them! And for a song, I have to use Alt-J’s Fitzpleasure: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npvNPORFXpc This was one of the many Alt-J songs they used throughout the show and the whole album worked a treat in tying up any loose ends which the show had.
Enjoy checking this show out at the Fringe, and buy your tickets here:
Why don’t you check out my next review, where I went to see Christina Bianco?