The Last Straw (3 stars)

The Last Straw

A confusion of information in a cerebral display

A venerable institution of experimental performance, the People Show reaches back to the dramaturgical innovations of the 1960s, and even after 130 shows, retains a commitment to theatre that engages intellectually. The Last Straw is elegantly created, covering the information gap between truth and gossip, media saturation and personal security: a single door sits at the centre of the stage, both promising escape but also acting as a barrier against freedom and threat. A couple rotate around it, casting conversations that never quite reveal what is really at stake amidst the confusion.

Its stark, wordy format refuses the simple pleasure of release: an agitated humour – more absurd than surreal, more thoughtful than funny – grips the characters as they try to decode meanings from events both local and global. There is a sense of a relationship slowly being ground down by the pressures of a world mediated by headlines threatening disaster, and the erosion of intimate space by the encroaching mass media. Its dry delivery – backed by a haunting soundscape that lends a sinister atmosphere – rejects emotionalism for a measured crescendo of despair and disorientation.

While the production is masterful, the cerebral direction prevents the ideas from entirely engaging: a litany of disasters, expressed playfully, becomes distant jokes rather than present dangers. The austerity of the scenography heightens the sense of alienation, both within the characters and from the audience: The Last Straw is ultimately more admirable than loveable.

Summerhall, until 26 Aug (not 13, 20), 3pm, £12 (£10).

The Last Straw

  • 3 stars

People Show With the facts lying shredded on the floor, how do we know what's true? Imprisoned by the bombardment of modern media, sheltering from disaster and forced to guess at the truth, The Last Straw is a darkly comic take on fake news, the very real communications overload we face every day, and how to survive…

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