Walking the Tightrope (4 stars)

This article is from 2015

Walking the Tightrope

Plays to defend and push the freedom of speech

With a superb cast of four jumping between roles – there are eight short plays in this collection – and a post-show discussion, this response to last year's conflicts around freedom of expression at the Fringe is certainly value for money. Those seeking to be offended will find something just for them: there's sexual assault, swearing, racism, corporate infiltration of culture and an advert for BP's cheap theatre for youth. Mark Ravenhill and Neil LaBute are unsurprisingly provocative, but it is perhaps Tim Fountain's short that gets the most gasps, when a gollywog turns up on stage.

Caryl Churchill's entry is smart and offers two of the actors a chance to impress with their precise wordplay and repeated movements – her script suggests the decay of language caused by the intrusion of buzzwords and advertising – but it is LaBute who goes all out. A black man rapes a white woman and defies the audience to say it is not art.

Unfortunately, it is clear that this is an exercise in testing boundaries, which does undermine the challenge, and there are quite a few pieces that are worryingly self-absorbed. It is the cast, the range and pace of the material, and the ideas that can be carried into discussion that make this a valuable show.

Underbelly Topside, 08445 458252, until 31 Aug, 3.35pm, £14.50–£15.50 (£13.50–£14.50).

Walking the Tightrope: The Tension Between Art and Politics

  • 4 stars

Offstage and Underbelly Productions, in association with Theatre Uncut World premiere of explosive political short plays by writers including Caryl Churchill, Neil LaBute and Timberlake Wertenbaker, followed by energetic post-show audience discussions with stellar panels exploring freedom of expression in the UK arts…