I saw No Child at Assembly on Monday - what an astonishing, moving and technically perfect performance from an extraordinary actress. There seemed to be a bit of a race amongst a few of us in the crowd as to who could get to their feet first for the ovation - I reckon I was pretty close to winning.
For me, Bo Burnham is absolutely deserving of all the hype his show is getting. Despite, as an audience member, being made to feel badly-read, thick, illiterate, talentless and overwhelmingly ordinary, this 19-year old genius, somehow never came across as unlikeable. He can act, he can sing, he can play piano, he can read 'Hamlet' soliloquies perfectly and he can tell a mean joke. Inspirational and depressing all at once, I can't wait to see it all over again.
I also witnessed the exceptional Little Bulb at work for the first time in Operation Greenfield at Zoo Roxy. It's the show that everyone's talking about and selling out purely by word-of-mouth. Despite not seeing a single flyer nor having many reviews out yet, the buzz about this company is almost as extraordinary as the show itself. When words like 'innovative' and 'inventive' are getting bandied around far too freely to describe companies that think they have to swing a prop above their head everytime they want to move it - Little Bulb show us all how it should be done. Genuinely unique, quirky, humorous, sophisticated, charming, moving, minute and epic all at once, with moments that are probably wasted on Bible-dunces like me, I reckon these guys and their clearly painstakingly-rehearsed messy edge, are deservedly on the path to absurd levels of success.
And then I saw Teenage Riot at the Traverse. I hadn't seen any of this company's previous work. How refreshing to see such moving, challenging, provocative, shocking and sensational work at the Fringe. How great to see something that people will either love or hate and not just leave thinking: "That was OK. What are we having for dinner?". There were a number of walkouts. Fair enough. Audience members have paid their money, and have every right to leave. But even if they were finding the show uncomfortable, unpleasant or just plain unworthy of their time and money; even if they didn't want to wait to see it in its entirity before making their judgements, I'm amazed they didn't want to stay simply to appreciate the technical skill of these absurdly gifted (and unnervingly beautiful) young performers, as they acted their socks off whilst managing the ridiculously complex camera work. They made it look almost too easy - maybe people might take all the various technical elements they're simultaneously juggling for granted.
Afterwards, I got into a cracking debate with the passionate and highly articulate young company of Romeo & Juliet at C Venues, who absolutely detested the show - even to the point of warning off all punters on their way into the Traverse from seeing it. They felt the show to be pretentious, vacuuous and entirely irrelevant to their own real life experiences. And my argument was: isn't it great that they hated it so much; that it had provoked such an extreme reaction in them. It had got them all talking about it, and the subject matter it covered, and relating it directly to their own life experience. That happens all too rarely these days.
Admist a sea of chewing gum theatre, that you'll forget in five minutes of leaving the venue; in an environment where the flavour of the month seems to be final-A-Level-piece-style, semi-devised, semi-physical, mostly-whimsical theatre, there's got to be a place for politically provocative work - particularly shows done so brilliantly. Love or hate is surely always better than indifference.
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