Alabama God Damn (3 stars)

Alabama God Damn

Giving depth to the southern caricatures

Piling on the Southern Gothic detail – snake-wrangling pastors, good old boys, corrupt sheriffs and a distrust of outsiders – Alabama God Damn takes a trip into the redneck mind and, with a dramaturgy hinging on live music and a series of vignettes that expose Alabama's despairing heart, attempts to fit a novel's worth of action into an hour.

The ensemble's superb performances – Olivier Leclair manages to represent most of the small-town characters, from villainous landowner to the local meth-head and a violent old mother – keep the scenes flowing as Frank (Ashley Driver) investigates the death of an old buddy. Drawn back to the place he had to escape after failing to protect the woman he claimed to love (Sarah Connolly), Frank bumps into larger than life characters and clumsily uncovers the corruption without ever quite becoming the hero he thinks he is.

With so many characters and themes being explored, the structure tends to lurch between scenes, and the restrictions of the Fringe's tight timetabling prevents Alabama from taking flight: with the rough and ready songs, the bleak prognosis of the southern mentality and the reflections on religion, big business and parochialism, the story has plenty of material that begs for attention. And the happy conclusion feels forced. Yet the performers constantly entertain, and capture a brooding, and occasionally comic, atmosphere that shows compassion for a group of much-maligned people, without accepting their uglier attitudes.

Pleasance Dome, until 26 Aug, 11am, £10.50 (£9.50)

Alabama God Damn

  • 3 stars

Hippana Theatre An electric performance influenced by S-Town, True Detective and Seasick Steve. Frank returns to his hometown and has a riot with the casual criminals, the enlightened rednecks and a snake-wielding pastor. Overwhelmed with humour and dark beauty, Frank rediscovers the Deep South in all its profanity…

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