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bad things happen here – Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018

bad things happen here (c) R. Eric Stone
bad things happen here (c) R. Eric Stone

I know Edinburgh Fringe 2018 has a theme of #IntoTheUnknown but it is a little surprising to see the only two actors on stage, Marieta Carrero and Molly Winstead, for bad things happen here listed as ‘Ensemble’. Who, then, are the principals? Anyway, it doesn’t help that the characters are unnamed, or that repeated bursts of incomplete sentences make it harder than it need be to decipher what is going on. The opening scene is bizarre, and even when repeated in context towards the end of the performance it was still odd that X claims the door is locked but Y replies that there isn’t even a lock on the door. Are they talking about the same door?

What seems to have happened is that whatever part of the United States the play is set in – I would guess New York City, but it is, for all intents and purposes, unspecified – has entered into some sort of dystopia. The people are gripped by a sense of fear, which might, with the benefit of hindsight, explain all those incomplete sentences. The scenes are relatively short, which means that by the time the scene gets going, it’s time for the scene to get gone. What I could deduce is that there is fire being fought with fire, with possibly a disproportionate use of force and violence to control the population at large.

There are also a large number of ‘ordinances’, announced in the way that public address systems are used in The Hunger Games. They get increasingly ridiculous – one is an edict that martial law will be declared, but only between certain times on a certain day of the week, and as tends to be the case with authoritarian regimes, no reason is given for this. The on-stage characters, meanwhile, are not so much living as surviving. At least one scene was rather thought-provoking. One of the women calls 911 because she says, there’s a man in the house. The operator needs more information than that: “A man is not an emergency.” Even when it is established that someone is trespassing on private property, the operator muses that all the police department can do is send another man who also doesn’t live there – will he be an emergency too?

While the scene changes work well, mostly because there are no props to be shifted around and it, therefore, falls to the lighting design (Courtney Gaston) to denote one scene from another, the scenes are not always interconnected. One minute, someone is seriously talking about going off to be a ‘freedom fighter’, and the next, both on-stage characters are musing about how young and pretty their new pastor is. Later, the parish church is seen as acting against the down-and-outs in society, turfing someone out who has been staying there, on the run from whichever government agency is out for her blood.

The play seems to ask more questions than it answers. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself, but it’s a little like being given the grand tour of a National Trust property all too quickly. One leaves with a general gist of what a world effectively ruled by the militia would be like, but there are a number of stories in this show that could be further developed to become plays in their own right. Here, the play as a whole is too rushed, packing too much in. But I like its ambitious objectives, and at least it tells its story from the perspective of the women on the street, rather than the men wearing sharp suits in ivory towers.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Comaweng

The nation has never been healthier. Crime is down. Streets are clean. Civility reigns. But out of the corner of your eye you might catch a glimpse of the men keeping things orderly. In a series of brief, enigmatic scenes, two women take us into the heart of a nation disciplined by violence.

The Healthy Oyster Collective presents
bad things happen here
August 4th -11th, 13th -18th
Paradise in The Vault
11 Merchant Street, EH1 2QD
https://www.edfringe.com/

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