Review – Flâneurs

May 24 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Blow by blow account delivered with precision

Jenna Watt in Flaneurs. Photo credit Eoin Carey

Jenna Watt in Flaneurs. Photo credit Eoin Carey

Traverse Theatre
Thurs 23/Fri 24 May 2013
Review by Irene Brown

The attack and mugging of a friend in London horrified writer and creator Jenna Watt. Even more so, when she discovered that the attack took place in front of many witnesses.

Watt uses an engaging direct narration to tell her personal response to the crime in which she makes a particular point of questioning the role of bystanders. There is a belief that “the larger the crowd, the less likely it is that anyone will intervene”.

It is this phenomenon that focuses Watt’s work and gives it its title. Flâneurs comes from the French verb flâner meaning to stroll – or, pejoratively, to hing aboot. A flâneur, then, is one who does just that. But carrying out this ostensibly harmless activity when a fellow human being is being attacked can change it to from mere idling to chilling voyeurism.

Although her friend’s attack took place in Britain’s capital, Watt uses the play to looks at her adopted home town of Scotland’s capital to examine areas of danger. Five slim strips of white screens form the backdrop to her simple set. On it is projected the thin line of Edinburgh‘s cityscape, like the graph on a life monitoring hospital machine.

She superimposes figures on this, and other simply-drawn slides of her environment like a modern version of fuzzy felt. Effective lighting and the single notes of the background music add poignant atmosphere to this cleanly directed piece.

Stark contrast

Watt’s open, honest and warm hearted delivery, though by definition in itself calculated to make people think, is in stark contrast to the cold calculation of the described attacks. She strikes a balance between being conscious of potential danger while retaining a positive viewpoint.

Voice-overs from a police officer and from the victim of a violent attack are stark reminders of the shattering results of the unknown intentions of others when they manifest in an assault. Watt’s mime to the victim’s descriptions not only shows her ability to empathise but is a smart and moving testimony to the effect her friend’s suffering had on her.

Watt carries out an interesting psychological exercise with the audience involving the throwing of tomatoes while she is blindfold. She appears to be trying to enact the sense of receiving blows from unknown directions. The success was sadly questionable – but perhaps the post-show Q&A revealed more about people’s motives.

On a day when horrific street violence has hit the headlines, the message of being both awake and aware in this piece of measured simplicity is timeous.

Running time 50 mins
Run ends Friday 24 May
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street EH1 2ED. Thurs/Fri, 8pm.
Full details on:

Jenna Watt’s website:

Flaneurs on tour:

20th June
Word of Warning – Contact, Manchester –  Website
7.30pm, £8/ £5
0161 274 0600

6th July
Play Pieces – The Spectrum Centre, Inverness – Website
1pm, £10 (including lunch)
Phone: 0844 8700 887

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