The Tin Can People

Mon 8th – Fri 12th August 2011


Jonathan Grande

at 08:19 on 9th Aug 2011



‘Time: After the nuclear holocaust’. Words enough to make you put down the script before you’ve even started it. But not so for the International Collegiate Theatre Festival, who bring a production of the second in Edward Bond’s trilogy of War Plays to Edinburgh all the way from Canada. 'The Tin Can People' examines a group of survivors seventeen years after the nuclear holocaust, and Joan McBride’s staging of it lives up to all the clichés you would expect from a post-Apocalyptic play: cue half-human creatures crawling and swaying around the stage, dressed in ragged costumes, and all emotions and drama turned up to the max throughout.

When it works, it really works. Once they’ve got over their slightly awkward “physical theatre” opening while the audience enter – which, along with the rest of the show, could have benefited from a more textured lighting design – the chorus turn out to be the stars of the show. They squeeze every last drop of potential from the space, pulling the audience into the action from every side, and making use of the four pillars in their animalistic movement around the stage. The synergy between them as they recite their lines is nothing other than impressive. The individual voices fade in and out and blend together to create an eerie and textured sound that really highlights the poetry of Bond’s writing as they lament, ‘The bomb, it never stops it’s destruction’.

But when the chorus fade into the background, the drama fades slightly with them. The leads never manage to fully create convincing characters in the first instance, so as the plot unfolds, the turn to savagery fails to shock as much as it might. It must be admitted that Bond’s script does not help them in this, as the long sections of exposition in the opening scenes get in the way and ultimately prove unnecessary and tedious. However, the talented actors certainly get into their stride and turn some of the climatic moments into truly harrowing theatre, as the survivors ‘fight like animals on an abattoir floor’.

Ultimately, though, despite a surprisingly warm audience response at its conclusion, I cannot help but feel that 'The Tin Can People' is a little too much like a version of 'Lord of the Flies' that has lost its bite.


Ramin Sabi

at 19:36 on 11th Aug 2011



The International Collegiate Festival’s original production by Edward Bond attempts a profound contemplation of a post-apocalyptic world. While it makes a good attempt, the overdone nature of the concept means that the show doesn’t really approach any such profundity.

While the play is starved of actual originality, credit must be given to the direction. The standard zombie-like creatures that slowly stalk about the stage, suffering from the evil acts of mankind, have a great physicality, even if it is something we have seen in a number of indistinguishable films, complete with ragged costumes and all. They manage to establish a proper sense of despair and stained deprivation and induce some fear, aided by well-placed sound effects.

However, once we get to the substantive plot and character development the script slows to a snails pace, as the characters attempt to explore something deep about their hopeless situation, but it is more the play itself that becomes hopeless as these drag on and on. The standard of the acting does not help much. While the acting isn’t completely incompetent, the central performers are not able to establish the intensity that would be necessary to seriously engage the audience with the complexity and gravity of the situation.

The script is well-structured and if it were cut down (not to mention if the acting could be improved) then it could be a much more engrossing piece of theatre. But the tired and over-used concept means that it is unlikely to draw in an audience on anything like a profound level.


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