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Encounters: Theatre Uncut
Published on Friday, 26 August 2011

4 stars

Traverse Theatre (venue website)
22 Aug, 3:00pm-5:00pm, 7:00pm-9:00pm
Reviewed by Carmel Doohan

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

This project began in March 2011, when drama groups, youth clubs, universities and theatres nationwide staged these short plays and others in an uprising of protest against the coalition. Each piece responds imaginatively to the cuts the government is driving, creating visions that suggest the truths behind the political soundbites.

These are scratch performances, acted with scripts in hand, and some actors have obviously had more time to rehearse than others. Yet although the performances vary in quality, the strength of the writing remains impressive throughout.

The first half begins with Open Heart Surgery by Laura Lomas – a moving and clever extended metaphor on a country having its heart ripped out. This is followed by Dennis Kelly's Things That Make No Sense, a well-timed comic piece set in a police station. In Fat Man, Anders Lustgarten gives us a Ginsbergesque rant of greed and ideology gone mad, while Mark Ravenhill's A Bigger Banner introduces a modern day student to a ghost from the 50's to reflect on the ideals he suggests we have given up.

In the second half, Jack Thorne's Whiff Whaff hilariously suggests how surreal social policy may have become, and Clare Brennan's Hi Vis argues for a disturbing vision of how the disabled are being affected. Housekeeping, by Lucy Kirkwood, follows this with a witty glimpse into a future where even the sea has been privatised.

The final play is David Greig's Fragile. This is so good that a whole room full of awful actors cannot detract from it. We, the audience, read the role of Caroline, a youth worker who is arguing with a boy about the closure of his youth centre. As Caroline, the entire audience promises that they will fight these cuts and this Government to the end.

It’s a powerful climax to two hours of engaged and impassioned theatre; and for those won over to the show's political message, hearing ourselves speak these empowering words en masse makes such action feel suddenly possible.

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