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Location, location, location

Pauline McLean | 15:12 UK time, Saturday, 14 August 2010

Throughout the Edinburgh Fringe you'll see little groups of people being herded down city streets.

Not conventional city tours but some of the growing number of site-specific theatre shows.

In Roadkill, we take a bus from the Traverse theatre to an anonymous townhouse in Leith.

This harrowing tale of modern day sex trafficking begins right away as a little Nigerian girl, Mary, talks excitedly to us as she travels with her "auntie" to her new home in Edinburgh.

Our worst fears are confirmed inside as we sit in the living room, watching Mary dancing innocently to a Beyonce video.

Next, we listen to her screams from the hall and watch as the television screen transforms into a hellish animation of Mary being brutalised by an eastern European pimp.

The setting adds to the nightmarish story.

We, like Mary, are forced to descend into a circle of hellish rooms, unable to escape.

Behind the shuttered windows of this genteel facade, life goes on as normal and no one heeds Mary's growing desperation or the audience's growing discomfort.

At least one member of the 13-strong audience ends the show in tears.

The bus ride back is subdued.

It's hard to meet anyone's eye.

And as you pass grand townhouses in bustling streets, you wonder how many children live Mary's horrific story for real.

A child trapped in a nightmarish scenario is also at the centre of David Leddy's play Sub Rosa, only this time it's set more than 100 years earlier.

First performed backstage at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, this dark tale of music hall skullduggery is now relocated to a masonic lodge, with the Masonic imagery woven into the plot.

The audience is led through the building in 20 minute waves - never seeing another group - and from the entrance where a gas lamp flickers, it's clear we're in another world.

In each new space, we hear and see (even smell) another character - from the melancholic contortionist, the creepy wardrobe master, Siamese twins - who tells another layer of the story.

We never see the heroine - 11 year old Flora - but David Leddy's dark and violent words and images mean her character hovers around us and lingers long after our guide abandons us on the cobbled street at midnight with a curt goodnight.

If that's all too much, you could grab your Chopper bike and an ice pole and head for a swing park for Decky does a Bronco.

First performed at the Fringe 10 years ago - Douglas Maxwell's coming of age drama about boys growing up in a small town - will still resonate with audiences.

Set in 1983, the bronco of the title refers to the schoolboy trick of jumping off the swing, swinging it over the top bar and running underneath.

Understandably, most councils don't like people to do that to their swings, so Gridiron for whom this was a breakthrough show, have brought their own.

They're bigger - to make the adult cast look smaller - and reinforced but that hasn't stopped the cast sustaining a few bruises.

And it won't leave emotions unbruised either. It may seem gentle and nostalgic but it still gets you where it hurts, with a tragic twist.

Catch it at a swing park near you - it's touring the UK after its Fringe run.


  • Comment number 1.

    Not so much site as finding the specific site. WORLD PREMIERE of an adaptation of Chekov's Seagull by top playwright Jo Clifford for Theatre Alba. "In the grounds of a country house beside a lake a stage is being constructed...". Literalry. Venue 121 Duddingson Kirk Gardens. Real, untrained seagulls fly over the set as Nina's moon rises over the set. "Crystal clear Chekov". "Magical". "Could have been concieved of for this company in this setting" See it if you can.



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