EH 16: Pyre

Aug 6 2018 | By More

★★★☆☆     Unclear power

theSpace Triplex (Venue 38): Fri 3–Sat 11 Aug 2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

EH 16: Pyre, Nevermore’s production in the downstairs studio at TheSpace Triplex is a determinedly political look at violence against women both in history and today. While at times diffuse, it has an undeniable power.

While this is billed as a ‘horror’ play, most of the horrific moments are all too rooted in reality. The play deals with three figures – the 16th-century ‘witch’ Agnes Sampson; Jessie King, the 19th-century ‘baby farmer’ who was the last woman hanged in Edinburgh; and a modern-day victim of austerity and Universal Credit.

Maegan Hearons as Agnes Sampson. PicL Evelina Cassari

Maegan Hearons as Agnes Sampson. Pic: Evelina Cassari

What the stories have in common is the oppression of women, and particularly of women’s reproductive rights.

The play was devised and directed by its performers, with dramaturgy by Billie Willett, and has many of the hallmarks of such pieces – stark and evocative moments, some compelling physical theatre, and a certain lack of clarity.

While the connections between the stories are obvious, there is still a lack of overall focus that means that their impact is dissipated. There are some odd transitions between sections, with a large audio section of Kezia Dugdale’s speech attacking the benefit ‘rape clause’ being one of them – however powerful it is, it is oddly out of place. It is clunkily expository, making explicit what has already been explored, and does little other than fill in time.

The three performers – Gillian Bain, Megan Travers and Maegan Hearons – turn in performances of power and honesty that give the more direct passages considerable force. This is enhanced by Miriam Larrainzar’s technical support, with some of the pounding noise and lighting being suitably disorienting.

fierce intelligence

It is the more abstract moments that convince; when the more conventional storytelling takes over it starts to flag. The quieter points, furthermore, suffer badly from outside noise in a trademark boxy Fringe space.

Gillian Bain, Maegan Hearons and Megan Travers perform a witch ritual. Pic Nevermore.jpg

Gillian Bain, Maegan Hearons and Megan Travers perform a witch ritual. Pic Nevermore.jpg

With a relatively short show, it might have been better to go for the more full-on experience as suggested by the warnings of ‘partial nudity, scenes of sexualised violence and strobe lighting’. Aside from the strobes, such trigger warnings suggest a more extreme experience than what transpires. The violence on display may be horrific, but is far from being fantastic – indeed, it is what routinely happens on film and television under the guise of entertainment.

Here it is driven by the fierce intelligence and political nous that lie behind this production, which suggests a great deal of promise with a slightly more focused approach.

Running time 35 minutes (no interval)
TheSpace Triplex (Venue 38), The Prince Philip Building, Hill Place, EH8 9DP
Friday 3 – Saturday 11 August 2018
Evenings at 8.40 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website:

Facebook: @NevermoreTheatre
Twitter: @nevermorehorror


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