Friday, 14 August 2009

Burn - Second Skin, Edinburgh Fringe

Burn by Andy McQuade
Reviewer: Deborah Klayman
Fringe Rating: 1 Star

‘Burn’, written by Andy McQuade, is based on Sartre’s ‘No Exit’, and sets the three characters on a deserted island surrounded by lava and piranhas. They awake to this discovery, and immediately begin a pseudo-philosophical discussion about the reasons they are stranded there, their sins, and possible ideas for redemption.

This all sounds good, but the fact that the script is mediocre at best and the actors largely incomprehensible makes this an extremely long 50 mins. Both Iaione Perez (Helena) and Nika Khitrova (Tatiana) have strong accents which add to the difficulty, but the main issue is where the inflections and emphases are placed. By contrast McQuade’s Cliff is tragically easy to understand, meaning the audience gets the full thrust of his meretricious text.

Cliff is a smug financier who feels nothing is his fault and everyone’s problems are their own. Helena is a ‘self-made woman’, an intellectual and a lesbian with genuine skeletons in her closet. Tatiana is almost her exact opposite, both physically and emotionally, a Russian beauty who uses her sexuality as a weapon and has the most shocking secret of all. Not exactly the people you would want to be trapped with for eternity (or for the duration of this show), but they attempt to make the best of it, prompting a predictable love triangle.

With no intensity or intension in the one-dimensional performances, it was hard to take seriously the grave crimes the three characters revealed they had committed, and even harder to care. The actors consistently drop both the energy and the end of their lines, so the tension never builds. Tension crept into the audience, however, when the inevitable happened – a lesbian kiss, followed by Cliff getting a hand-job through his trousers. It was not a discomfort born out of shock or distaste however, merely that it was so crudely done and crow-barred in that we cringed in our seats and many in the audience laughed. This also showed that Second Skin, a company born out of the ashes of Act Provocateur International (for which all three were principal actors), is merely continuing their tradition of so-called ‘In Yer Face’ theatre, where practically every show had gratuitous nudity, sex or both - rarely with any justification.

Ultimately, the show ended and then began again, portraying purgatory as some sort of infernal Groundhog Day. The characters had unburdened themselves one by one, then had a brief moment of realisation that the only thing worse than being together was being alone, all performed with an insincerity that was overwhelming. Like the script, the production was so unbelievably pompous and self-indulgent that the performers looked genuinely surprised at the audience’s level of discomfort – the first authentic emotion of the evening.

Despite all this there are comic moments, although I don’t know if they are entirely intentional. Helena’s line “This is all a bit lacking – I thought it would be a little more creative” got an ironic chuckle, but McQuade’s “You do not ask for the money back” brought the house down, illiciting raucus laughter from an audience clearly pondering the chance of getting a refund.

Underbelly, 6-30 Aug (not 19), 18:10 (19:00), Prices vary
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