25 August 2013

Mini review: Fewer Emergencies

Fewer Emergencies
Elbow Room
23 August 2013
The Owl and the Pussycat
to 31 August

Elbow Room are a company that I've somehow managed to miss, until now. And hopefully I won't miss them any more.

Fewer Emergencies is three 20-minute plays that are told in a disconcerting mix of third person narrative (she said) told by the characters themselves, who are in turn being questioned by others. The script lists the characters as numbers and it takes time and re-reads to discover what it's trying to do and say. It also leaves all interpretation and sense of narrative (or not) up to those who perform it; no wonder the company are declaring it "Elbow Room vs Martin Crimp".

Crimp's plays tend to feel like a confrontation with the writer, and as an audience there's rarely a moment to sit back and enjoy the story, which leaves it up to the performers to find the compassion and empathy that draws an audience into the world.

But this work not a fight, it's more a challenge to see what they can create from this mass of words in the tiny box theatre at The Owl and the Pussycat.

And what they've done is make an hour of intimately intense theatre that's so sharp you should check for bleeding when you leave. And if you feel lost looking for the story, don't worry because you'll walk out remembering what you need to; it's one of those scripts where it's best to put your trust in the performers (Dean Cartmel, Emily Tomlins, Edwina Samuels and the company's artistic director Marcel Dorne) and enjoy the experience. And if you're lucky, someone might even hold your hand.

Their design is the wooden boxes supplied by the venue and a red cloth, but it's the lighting (by the company and Jason Cavanagh) that creates the atmosphere and makes the room feel like we're trapped in a world that's out of our control. It's also some of the most evocative (read: best) lighting I've seen in a small venue.

Fewer Emergencies is on for another week. If you love Martin Crimp, you've probably already gone. But, love Crimp or not, see it to be reminded that the best resource to make great theatre is terrific people

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