merry christmas, Ms Meadows (Edinburgh Fringe)
A wide-ranging but confused new piece from Belarus Free Theatre
Belarus Free Theatre's new show does not want for targets. Opening with a critique of the media frenzy preceding the death of transgender teacher Lucy Meadows, it goes on to look at issues surrounding gender and sexuality in countries across the world, from the difficulty of having gender reassignment approved in the company's native Belarus to the tradition of "sworn virgins" in Albania.
But in traversing so much ground, Belarus Free Theatre seem to lose sight of their direction. The stage is heaving with research – so much so that the theatre has a tendency of being smothered beneath it all. Other than the overarching focus on gender and sexuality, it is not clear quite what the company are trying to say. So wide is the scope that no individual issue has the opportunity to be developed, adding up to little more than a theatrical slideshow of various questions and injustices.
The most powerful moments are those seething with anger, when voices rise and bodies writhe. Those theatrically and politically potent snapshots are broken, however, by the unrelenting tide of information, blunting the rage and suspending the drama. Stunning images – two performers locked in something between a struggle and an embrace, newspapers swarming to attack a projected illustration – are lost amid dry facts.
There is little arguing against the importance of raising and discussing many of the issues that Belarus Free Theatre turn their gaze on during the course of the show. By presenting so much material, however, the company dilute each individual case study, producing a show that is confused in both content and execution.
merry christmas, Ms Meadows runs at Pleasance Dome until 25 August.