Commencement - Edinburgh 2011
Aug 16, 2011
Fringe Review ***
Well, this is a weird one. A bunch of American schoolgirls from St Mallory Academy decide to try and do their bit for humanity by kidnapping the CEO of a multi-national company with a bad environmental track record. He’s locked in a box around which the action takes place. But what are they going to do with him? This surreal and eccentric play by Brent Boyd, performed by an all-female cast, is directed with flair by Douglas Lowry and Anne Scarborough at the kind of pace that makes one wonder if the performers are going on somewhere. It’s very silly but there are some great lines along the way and it’s performed with an enthusiasm that’s hard to resist.
“Everything is changing after this” says one of the conspirators. “No-one listens” we’re repeatedly told. Seeing this show days after the rioting in London by the massed ranks of disaffected youth makes Commencement seem peculiarly apposite. Their teacher Mrs Green, who indulges though never endoses the kidnapping (and who may have unwittingly inspired it) helps the central focus of the play to be the earnest, honest passions of young people who believe that a better world could be available to them if they did something about it. She doubts it: “There’s nothing to be done. Your generation is doomed” she tells them. “Think global, act local” they chant. That’s what we have to worry about in the twenty-first century.
Into this central scenario are dropped several miniature scenes including a gameshow, an interview with a parent and her asthmatic child, a dance sequence, and a funny and well-drilled sequence in which the board of the multi-national debate whether or not to pay a ransom for the return of their kidnapped CEO. This is all presumably being imagined by the bad girls, or maybe they’re just absurd flights of fancy by the writer or directors. It doesn’t really matter. They remind one rather of the London hit (and Broadway flop) Enron which explained complex finance with dinosaurs and harmonising bankers.
Amidst all this, there’s plenty of enjoyable schoolgirl banter. When someone implies one of her co-conspirators is bulimic they get firmly told: “You can be as bitchy-bitch as you want but body image issues are off the table.” Defending the kidnap to the teacher one of the others says “We’re trying to change the world one asshole at a time.” Now there’s a slogan you could put on a bumper sticker.
Fun as it all is, it’s not perfect. It’s peculiar that the man in the box doesn’t move a muscle for most of the play (I presumed there was nobody in there) and then springs to life, banging from inside and yet never making any attempt to speak or shout for help. And exuberance and pace take precedence over individual characterisations, in the main, although Anna – a girl who clearly is unsure that the kidnap is the wisest move they could have made – gets a subtler performance than most.
It’s all good harmless fun but Daisy Pulls It Off it ain’t. Once, girls in plays would pull each other’s pigtails and row over lacrosse. Now they plan acts of terrorism. That’s progress.
Originally posted: http://www.fringereview.co.uk/fringeReview/4247.html