The Greenhouse by BoxedIn Theatre is one of the few site-specific pop-ups at this year’s Fringe – and what an inspired one it is. Made completely from recycled materials, it’s a large wooden shack, with a clear corrugated roof, one dim Edison bulb for light and bench seating in the round. Built in the grounds of Dynamic Earth, it houses a range of plays about climate change. It’s contemporary, forward-thinking and ethical theatre
The Voices We Hear is set in a generic undefined post-apocalyptic future where everyone’s been searching for cans of beans and killing each other – The Walking Dead minus the zombies. The staging is atmospheric as we arrive at 9.15pm, with the light fading fast. Ten minutes in and we can no longer see any detail at all, just silhouettes. Of course, this wouldn’t have been the case for the first couple of weeks of the run, but at this stage in August, in Edinburgh, it’s a problem. Visually it’s an interesting effect. But it’s a long time to sit in the dark, with a script and acting that is anything less than spectacular – and with many drawn-out dialogue-free moments. It’s hard to feel really engaged with the characters, although the actors do their level best with physicality and vocals, to level this.
The narrative follows the meeting of two women via walkie talkie radios. Played by Molly Williams and Georgina Savage, we hear their stories of humour and trauma as they develop a relationship. Much of the early sections appear to be written in Mamet speak (a term coined from playwright David Mamet’s style of fast, interrupting dialogue in short bursts). This requires an incredibly naturalistic, often overlapping approach, to make interruptions flow realistically. It’s a very advanced acting skill and something the actors had not quite nailed. They both show promise otherwise and offer some moving moments – although not seeing their faces for almost the whole thing, it does feel like reviewing the acting in a radio play.
The main Fringe website states the running time as 30 minutes, when in fact this plays for 45 – substantially longer and hugely problematic if you’ve stacked one show after another. Strict timings are such an issue in August where audiences see many shows in one go. If this was a mistake and somehow couldn’t be rectified on the Fringe site, the company perhaps should have considered cutting it to fit. And as the piece does feel a bit long in any case (especially the final sequence), this wouldn’t go amiss.
The Voices We Hear is created with the vital intention of bringing a stark warning about climate change. It seeks to communicate how bleak the future will be if we don’t act. As such, it would be great to see The Greenhouse and The Voices We Hear return to the Fringe and have a run elsewhere after some reworking. It would benefit from the input of a more experienced theatre-maker/director who can help identify and rectify the current issues.
Photo courtesy of Lara Tillotson.