Slings and Arrows

August 26, 2021 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆    Hard hitting

theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53): Mon 23 – Sat 28 Aug 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is raw emotion on display in Slings and Arrows, a disabled led dram from Raised Voices at theSpace@ Surgeons Hall – but there is also humour, stagecraft and real hope.

The cast members all variously have experience of homelessness, addiction, learning disabilities and mental health needs, and these themes are all well to the fore in an affecting and cleverly structured piece.

Matthew Power and Colin Brown. Pic: Raised Voices

The main focus is the story of Jackie, a woman whose difficult childhood and problematic engagement with education are the precursors to struggles with addiction and mental illness, before her encounter with a similarly troubled young man suggests hope for both of them.

Yet it is a rewarding one in so many ways. For a start, there is the ambition – the title obviously refers to Shakespeare, and any play that begins by quoting Hamlet deserves immense credit for sheer brass neck if nothing else.

There is a great deal else to recommend it. There have obviously been huge difficulties involved in mounting any kind of production this year – it is not surprising that a great proportion of the shows that have made it to Fringe 2021 have originated with student companies, who have had an advantage by all being in the same place to begin with. Putting together a production over Zoom has taxed the most experienced of actors, so goodness only knows how difficult it can have been here.

spellbinding

Yet it is not necessary to make allowances. Sure, there is the odd fluff, but the cast have the presence of mind to gloss over them with considerable skill. The production is anchored by Katie Greene’s Jackie. To say that she never appears to be acting could come across as patronising, or suggest that it is only due to the play dealing with such real issues, but nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, it is due to a commitment to, and immersion in, the role that is so complete that the effect is spellbinding.

Promotion for Slings and Arrows: Pic: Raised Voices

Colin Brown and Matthew Power’s double act displays a considerable amount of comic ability. Either the script is extremely loose, or they dance around it with a good deal of improvisation, but either way there is substantial impact.

The rest of the cast – Blair Christie, Archie Gray, Elissa Ford, Lee Holland and Lizzie Stephens – do themselves credit, with Stephens having a particular emotional clarity.

The script – by Christie, Gray and the cast – has a pleasingly economical arc as well as real emotional pay-off, with Gray’s direction being clear and making good use of the acting space.

Anyone who would go to see a play dealing with such subjects would surely not be put off by the odd swear word or example of near-the-knuckle humour, but it should be stated that this is not the most comfortable watch on the Fringe.

However, the most offensive thing on display is the demonstration of how hidden disabilities and struggles with mental health can so easily lead to people being stigmatised or ignored by the education system or society in general.

Running time 50 minutes (no interval)
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, Nicolson St, EH8 9DW (venue 53)
Monday 23 – Saturday 28 August 2021
Daily at 8.05 pm
Information and tickets at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/slings-and-arrows

ENDS

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