Socialist Worker

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: war works put rulers to shame

by Mark Brown in Edinburgh
Issue No. 2416

The Flood

The Flood features brilliant performances by Susanne Gschwendtner and Steven Lambert

Every socialist will have been nauseated by the Commonwealth commemoration of the centenary of the First World War held in Glasgow on 4 August.

David Cameron headed the delegation of establishment figures pretending to give a fig about the millions of lives that were discarded in the imperialist slaughter.

While this sickening display of hypocrisy was going on in Glasgow, the Festival Fringe was getting into full swing over in Edinburgh.

It was little surprise to find that some of the most talented theatre makers were commemorating the war with sincerity and power.

The Flood (Summerhall, until 24 August), by self-proclaimed creators of “extreme political art” Badac Theatre, is harrowing, but also deeply moving.

The piece is an intimate two-hander performed in a small underground space for a standing audience. 

It alternates between a British soldier’s experiences of the hell of warfare, and the impassioned exchanges between him and his lover—a field nurse. 

Actor and director Steve Lambert stars as the soldier. His lover is played brilliantly by Susanne Gschwendtner.

Badac are students of Antonin Artaud’s “Theatre of Cruelty”.

This is brought to bear as the desperation and tenderness of the love affair is punctuated by Lambert’s horrifying, full force performance. His verbal and physical repetition and variation evoke a sense of the terror of “going over the top” which exceeds any “naturalistic” representation on screen.

Small War (Traverse Theatre, until 24 August), by Flemish dramatist Valentijn Dhaenens, combines live performance and brilliant projected holograms in a subtle exploration of warfare. 

It is seen through the experience of a female nurse from the First World War, played by Dhaenens himself. It draws from various sources, from a speech by Attila the Hun to testimonies from the Vietnam War and more recent conflicts. The piece insinuated its way into my psyche and emotions. 

Both of these highly original works of art shudder with humanity and put the ruling class’s disingenuous wreath laying ceremonies to shame.

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Article information

Tue 12 Aug 2014, 18:23 BST
Issue No. 2416
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