A friend of mine once said on Facebook, “If you could spend an hour on a bench with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?” I responded, “You, of course,” and then wrote a poem. Perhaps these students from Sussex University had the same idea, but instead of a poem they wrote a Fringe Show!
Fortunately, it was less than the given hour because 45 minutes was enough time to spend on this park bench. Rather than a complete play, this was a series of vignettes on topics such as queerness, mental health, religion and periods. Despite choosing some ‘taboo’ subjects, the students tackled the material with a degree of quirky humour that made this assignation less heavy. Much of the writing came across as spoken word rather than drama, especially the monologues, although each section had a different approach, which helped the pacing.
One of the women sat on a bench and pulled a string of cut-out body shapes from an ELLE magazine, complaining about the social ideal of ‘cookie-cutter girls,’ while another slowly revealed her arms and shins daubed with body-shaming words. A section on Period-Shaming was presented more dramatically, with red masks reflecting the blood stain on one of the performer’s white shorts as she apologised “for bleeding all over your bench”. The show ended with a ‘Party Animal’ character complaining that her drinks had been spiked the previous night while simultaneously, all her friends poured blame on her through their mobile phones.
At the curtain call, the audience was invited to donate to the charity Rise UK and find the student performers on Twitter to tweet “things we are told to attach shame to” using the hashtag #SpeakYourTaboo. This idea, together with the charity angle, made the show a worthwhile concept and a well-intentioned student production.
You can see Unspoken (One Day in the Life of a Park Bench) at Greenside @ Infirmary St until 10th August at 19:50. For tickets, go to https://tickets.edfringe.com/