Futureproof

Futureproof - Lynda Radley (This is my review for the production of the play I saw, but I also read the text afterwards.) Dominic Hill's final piece as artistic director of the Traverse theatre comes as something of a nostalgic turn for me. Hill, whilst in charge of the Dundee Rep, directed the very first proper play I ever saw, 2007's bizarre and utterly chaotic production of "Peer Gynt." While Lynda Radley's 2nd play "Futureproof" has some of that bizarre content, it's a much more controlled piece rooted in the base human emotions, seeking to explore our own voyeuristic curiosity through the setting of travelling freak show Riley's Odditorium, made up of an intersexed individual, a pair of conjoined twins, an armless bearded lady, a fat man and the mermaid 'novelty act.' The show has suffered through some hard times, with the sad realisation that times are changing; their kind of magic is no longer looked upon with wonder and curiosity but revulsion, and if they are to survive, they must adapt, changing the outside but still suffering with what's inside.For his Traverse swansong, Hill has assembled a strong cast (in partnership with Dundee Rep, Scotland's only professional theatre ensemble) who wear their roles as if they had been playing these characters for many years, balancing family dynamics with the politics of the work and their statuses as outsiders to humanity, be it through choice or birth. While the entire cast was strong and worthy of acclaim, Natalie Wallace as the silent Serena deserves particular attention for evoking so much emotion and energy without saying a word. Each character has their faults exposed fully to the audience, giving them the humanity the world of the play has denied them. The world the circus inhabits (represented by a small campsite on a dust covered stage) looks as worn and lived in as the old, ragged costumes the performers wear, the literal crumbling relic to the metaphorical one of the travelling show.Radley's book, while in need of a little polishing, carefully keeps the balance of morbid humour and very human tragedy, not unlike the freak shows of old. While the book occasionally summarises the key themes of the play with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer (and the thread of intersexed George/Georgina is evidently weaker than the other characters's stories, and the topic less skillfully handled), Hill's direction keeps a tight rein on events, with creative staging and moments that evoke works such as Tod Browning's infamous horror movie "Freaks" and even some of the more train-wreck worthy modern day reality TV shows. The audience is always aware that they are watching something unfold that will inevitably turn disastrous, and that we may be partly to blame for what's to follow, even though it's impossible to turn away. My only real complaint with Hill's work is the play's ending, where certain directorial decisions clumsily overdo what could have been a powerful climax.Once again cementing the Traverse's reputation for high quality original work, "Futureproof" is a piece of work both Radley and Hill can be proud of. While there are a few bumps on the road, this all too human tale of outsiders, change and our obsessive standards of beauty and what is normal is a worthy addition to the Fringe's line-up. It's the right mix of style and substance and a fitting high note for Hill to end his time at the theatre.4/5.Read my review here: http://wangreenisland.blogspot.com/