EFR - Reviews of Open Wide Tour

Open Wide Tour

Sat 3rd – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

Joshua Adcock

at 05:00 on 15th Aug 2013

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Although at first it seems halting and, in places, poorly rehearsed, 'Open Wide Tour' in fact soon reveals itself to be a not untroubled show of abstraction and metaphor, rendered as fragmentary snippets of non-realistic performance.

The show is performed in an metaphorical, almost Brechtian style, clearly intended to illustrate a political point, with multiple breaches of the fourth wall made to make the audience feel either uncomfortable or amused. Indeed, there are moments of comedy, induced by a feeling of not knowing quite what’s going to happen next, and the funniest moment involves the performers dressing up in drag, although quite what the purpose of either the drag itself or of the resultant humour is unclear.

The show is advertised as a multimedia performance, and true to that promise, it does indeed use a projector and audiotrack to create atmospheric tension and context at the right moments. However, the animations used are far too abstract to piece together and make out anything comprehensible. Sadly, and in spite of all of the audience interaction, the show seemed, at times, less like a dialogue with the audience and more like a dramatized powerpoint slideshow.

The two actors perform anecdotes, quote dialogue, and play out different scenarios of personae victimised for their sexual orientation, but all of these snippets are too indistinct to be referred to as discrete characters, and this lack of focus in presentation is the problem with the whole show. The same criticism cannot be said, however, of the show’s message, which is quite painfully clear in its condemnation of homophobia. I’m sure that no-one in the audience would have taken issue with that message, but it’s the bluntness and the lack of nuance with which it is delivered that really causes it to fall flat on its face.

This begs the question: lacking any real investigative rigour, and with such a simple message, why is it necessary to go through all of this abstraction and conventional shock tactics in order to convey it? Despite leaving us with the parting message that we should all refrain from judging that which we don’t understand, and despite its good intentions, the performers’ best efforts sadly fail to stop the show from quickly becoming incomprehensibly vague and fragmentary. There seems to be little to understand here that most of us don’t agree with already .

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Frank Lawton

at 01:09 on 16th Aug 2013

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This piece’s screamingly explicit message, outlined verbatim at the end of the show just in case anyone had managed to miss the metaphorical spade beating it into their heads, is painfully predictable: ‘Don’t judge others’.

Judgment is a rather crucial aspect of the reviewing process and so, in the interests of any readers, I will judge: this is a piece I’ve seen so you don’t have to. That is, unless you’re a Congolese law-maker or Burmese police officer, in which case this is a must see. Here we encounter the fundamental flaw in the show’s conceit: those who need to be convinced that homophobic attacks are unacceptable are unlikely to voluntarily attend a show aggressively preaching that message. The good work it could do is lost in its very form.

And aggressively preached it is. In the context of a liberal, no-doubt educated audience, an asserted guilt trip on a repeated message, engaged with in viscerally obvious ways seems an odd choice of pitching. This was uncomfortable watching at times, but not always for the right reasons. This didn’t make me question commonly held perceptions or see issues in a new light, but rather just repeated a kick-in-the-crotch message in well-worn vocabulary: “we can have sex with whoever we like”. However correct that message may be, I don’t see the point in watching theatre that only confirms in you what you already believe, or conforms to accepted paths of perception.

Furthermore, for a show that proclaims the shared values of acceptance, tolerance and harmony, there was a considerable amount of anger directed towards the whole world, since apparently "the whole world is ignorant", the ‘Daily Star’ were right all along. All religion comes in for such a pasting that I’m almost forced to believe them when I’m told: “it’s everywhere, the hate”. Tolerance is a universal value, unless you disagree with us, in which case both sides create new rules.

The acting performances were convincing and strong in most places, with both actors successfully pulling off an emotional spectrum that ranged from sorrow and fear to anger and pain. In contrast, the multimedia was less successful overall, although it had its moments, particularly towards the end of the performance. On the whole, though, it was hard to justify, with the acting able to deliver forcefully enough by itself. The question of why this piece was delivering a well-trodden message in such an accusatory manner, here in enlightened Edinburgh - that is harder to answer.

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