The Last Straw
- Gareth K Vile
- 10 August 2018
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).