I’ve had a lot of firsts for me this year on the blog and now I can add Fringe Theatre to that list.
When someone says Fringe Theatre what do you think?
I literally had no clue what to expect when I was invited along with another theatre lover to the Lion and Unicorn Theatre in the Kentish Town area of London to see the production of At Last by Proforca Theatre Company, written by James Lewis and Alexander Knott and directed by David Brady.
The pub itself looks as though it has been quite newly refurbished and was inviting and welcoming inside. The theatre is upstairs and reminded me of my son’s blacked out school drama theatre, so think small and intimate and as a guesstimate there was about 45 of us there last night (give or take a few). So it was a sold out performance.
Props wise there was a missing persons board set up in the corner and a few free standing items that were to be used throughout the play- other than that it was just the actors and the audience. I was sitting in one of the side seating areas which meant that I looked side on to what was happening, however this worked wonderfully with the production as some of the actors were talking direct to you, looking you right in the eye! At first I was a little daunted by this but only really for the first few minutes before being drawn into the story.
It’s set in recent times with an almost ‘Black Mirror’ style dystopian feel, in a society that is scarily close to and realistically linked to today’s political madness. It’s a look at how easily the world around us can disintegrate into a very black and white ( no grey areas allowed) view of law and societal order. It’s presented in monologue form from the main characters but juxtaposed brilliantly in a way that makes the story flow and cleverly link between them. It’s a build up of anger radiating out until it bubbles over the top of the pot. In the production companies own words………..
‘This is the story of ten years of hate. Ten years of oppression and anger when we gave ourselves up to the dark.
This is the story of when the world went mad.
It is time to tell the truth.‘
Firstly, I was pretty much blown away by the acting. I thought each character was totally believable without being forced in any way. Secondly, considering it was all monologue rather than character interaction or conversation, I was hooked to each individual story and eager to see where it took every one of of them. It all felt a little to close to home in today’s political climate and therefore it was natural and easy to have empathy for the characters. I resonated completely with the mother and her two boys, I am a mum myself with two grown up boys and it was unsettling to watch how easy it could be for them under different circumstances to go down different paths.
I think as a newbie to fringe theatre I feel the bar might just have been set very high for any future shows I may now see after this particular production!
We were also treated to a Q&A with all involved afterwards which was an interesting experience in itself. Hearing how other audience members, and in fact the production team and actors themselves, viewed the show and characters. There was a lot of talk about the political side of it, however, for me I related more to the individual character journeys. Maybe it’s because I was born and bred in Belfast during the 70’s and 80’s, and lived through another type of political madness and civil unrest (yes we had actual police road blocks, it was undeniably unsafe to be out late at night in certain areas etc) that I felt that side of things in this particular show captured me much less than the human stories behind the backdrop of the societal turmoil.
At Last is running until 22 Sept 2019 at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, 42-44 Gaisford Street NW5 2ED and tickets are £14/ concessions £12
Disclaimer – I was invited as a guest of another reviewer so my ticket was gifted and no review was required, however, because I enjoyed the experience so much I thought it was only fair to give it a shout out!