Reviewed – 12th September 2018
“remains dangerously close to a school review in comparison with the bombardment of talent hitting London’s fringe theatre scene”
It would be a cheap remark to say that, after sitting through last night’s performance at The Space, one feels ‘fleeced’, but it is hard to connect the exciting publicity for this show with its underwhelming result. Written and directed by Georgia Hardcastle (co-founder, with her sister Sally, of Matipo Theatre Company), this work sets out to explore how we construct our identities and become part of the flock of society while feeling cheated by it. There is a certain youthful energy and enthusiasm and a voice trying to be heard but the play tells us what we already know and does it in ways which we have already seen.
We open on an Orwellian scene. Dressed in neutral grey, the cast walk robotically as numbers, until two of them discover human contact. They are punished, choosing either to become sheep or shepherds. Or neither. It’s not entirely clear. We move abruptly to a video game. As the characters join forces to complete the level, the knight and the unicorn think they might get on ‘in real life’… until they reveal their ages. And…? There follows a series of short, insubstantial sketches which relate, in some way, to identity, generations, social media, gender and relationships. But we know who would win a tug of war between professionals and the unemployed; we know children are regularly exposed to inappropriate online material and this affects their behaviour; we know social media feeds us trivia in the hope that we forget about serious issues, that art can be pretentious and that couples get caught in coercive situations. Apart from an interesting idea using movement to illustrate a couple’s transformation, the theatrical formulas have been seen time and time again. New writing has to find a fresh way to tell a story. And the message needs to be thought through and structured if it is to make sense. It is not enough to string ideas together and call it ‘spasmodic’.
In its favour, the end is nicely linked to the grey plodding of the beginning. We enjoy a brief element of emotion from Matty Noble, whose appearance throughout gives the show some welcome substance, and Owen Smith’s choreography produces refreshing moments of distraction. Nevertheless, ‘Fleeced’ remains dangerously close to a school review in comparison with the bombardment of talent hitting London’s fringe theatre scene.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Jade Boothby
The Space until 14th September