Feb 5 2024 | By More

★★★☆☆     Horrors of war

Manipulate Festival 2024
Traverse: Fri 2 – Sat 3 Feb
Review by Allan Wilson

Writer and performer Al Seed’s latest creation, Plinth, produced by his own company and Vanishing Point and touring to Manipulate, opens with Seed standing on a plinth giving a live rendition of a series of poses found in military statues.

Seed carries a form of prosthetic for his arm, which sometimes represents a contemporary rifle, or machine gun, but in other poses looks more like an ancient lance. There is loud electronic music, occasionally punctuated by searchlights and the sounds and flashes of gunfire.

Al Seed in Plinth. Pic Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

The base of the statue is surrounded by sandbags, as if it forms part bunker in a trench. Among the sandbags there is a small box on which a small marble statue of a woman can be seen. Could this scene represent the Ukrainian War, or a scene from the trenches in World War 1, or is it a timeless representation of the horrors of war?

After a particularly loud burst of gunfire, Seed begins to shake and vibrate, and his eyes take on a haunted stare, reminiscent of PTSD. As the statue comes to life and steps down from the plinth he seems to go spinning along a journey through time, observing different conflicts, some in the ancient world, others more contemporary.

contemporary conflicts

The sound of a helicopter can be heard in one of the more contemporary conflicts. In another, he hears distant singing and mouths a silent response. The statue increasingly struggles to comprehend what he is seeing, becoming upset and uncertain about the role of a ‘hero’, represented by many military statues.

Al Seed in Plinth. Pic Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Along the journey, the statue picks up different examples of the detritus of war. In one place, he finds a metal bowl with a polished inner surface which he initially uses to hold water, then to focus light onto first his face, and then onto the audience. In another, he picks up a small robe and places it over his face and head to try to shut out the horrors that surround him, but the material is too thin to stop him seeing. A laurel wreath falls to the ground as he picks up the robe. He retrieves it and places it on his head. His attention is drawn to the Greek statue, which he tips over onto its side.


There is much to appreciate in this non-verbal, solo performance. Al Seed is extraordinary in creating the statue with a mixture of jerky and repetitive movements, combined with moments of intensity and a more controlled sense of calm.

Kai Fischer’s set design of sandbags and the remains of conflict gives a definite hint of the horrors of war, further emphasised by Alberto Santos Bellido’s stark use of white and yellow lighting piercing through the dark to illuminate the action. Intensity is also the best word to describe Guy Veale’s soundscape of electronic noise and the noises of war. There were times when it was almost painfully intense.

However, at the end, as the statue returns to his plinth, one is left questioning: what was the point of all that?

Running Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes.
, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED.
Fri 2/Sat 3 Feb 2024
Evenings: 8pm (Trav 1).
Run ended.

Byre Theatre, Abbey Street, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9LA
Thu 8 Feb 2024
Evening: 6.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Cumbernauld Theatre at Lanternhouse, Cumbernauld Academy campus, South Kildrum Ring Road Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, G67 2UF
Sat 10 Feb 2024
Evening: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Plinth on the Vanishing Point website:

Al Seed in Plinth. Pic Tommy Ga-Ken Wan


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