Going Underground

Fri 5th – Sat 13th August 2016


Frances Ball

at 09:20 on 9th Aug 2016



'Going Underground', set predominately on a London tube train, addresses the very modern conundrum of profound loneliness in a crowd of people. The apparently young ensemble cast takes on an adult script to portray sketches of a broad range of characters, each of whom has a snippet of dialogue to shed light on their story. Their lives do not so much intersect as bump off each other in the melting pot of the city, but the potential poignancy of this is laboured in a show that feels, at times, like a school drama piece.

The set is kept to a simple minimum, consisting largely of a tube bench seat. The conceit should work as a premise for conversation between unrelated people, but interactions between characters do not have the natural beat or style of real conversation. Perhaps this could be justified because the plot revolves around loneliness – but you cannot help feeling perplexed by the way that the characters speak to each other, failing to convey much of a sense of reality at all.

An exception to this is the excellent Morgen Johnson, who picks up on nuances of natural movement and speech and gives a strong performance of a recently brokenhearted woman. Her role is not really any less of a caricature than others in the show, but she makes it believable as well as very funny – I only wish we could see more of her. Catalina Prior, as Anna, gives some lovely, well timed comic moments, and her face is wonderfully expressive.

Yet my notes read like those of a director watching through an unsuccessful dress rehearsal. The cast have learnt their lines, but they speed through them without seeming to understand how anyone would actually say the things that they are saying. If the cast really considered both what the words mean and how to convey them, then the show might have some potentially moving moments.

In the whole cast ensemble scenes, repeated throughout the show, the cast recite facts and statistics about London which correspond increasingly to their own characters’ lives. I say recite, because this section has all the drama of a train announcement, and I’m afraid to say I am irritated by the lack of anything but caricature in these performances.

As they walk on, I am immediately struck that the cast look young, but there is no reference to them as a youth company or similar. In my heart of hearts I feel that they are trying to put on a sharp, comic but touching Edinburgh show, but they are falling short by a mile. Instead, they present something that would not feel out of place in a GCSE devised piece.


Ed Grimble

at 15:14 on 9th Aug 2016



The conceit behind ‘Going Underground’ is certainly an interesting one: a snapshot of the nocturnal life of the London Underground, following the lives of ten of the 1.34 billion people who use it. Instead of being a crucible in which to explore the complex modern phenomenon of urban isolation however, the action unfolding on this solitary Transport for London bench seat seems too far removed from any semblance of reality that it verges on the incredulous.

The Clash’s ‘London Calling’ blares out as we enter the theatre- little does the audience know that it is all agonisingly downhill from here on in. The characters line up and proceed to reveal a host of facts and figures about London and the Tube (which admittedly are very interesting, but nothing that could not be gleaned from the TfL website), interspersed with their own emotional attachments to, and opinions of, the Underground and life in the Big Smoke.

It is a great paradox of modernity that crowded spaces found in cities are the most isolating. Modern urban living is defined by the omnipresent threat of social atomisation, where it is very easy for the individual to slip into helpless anonymity. London has a population of 8.674 million people or, as one line in the show observes, 8.674 million ways to be lonely. There is, then, a ludicrous incongruity in the fact these supposedly isolated and timid city-dwellers seem to be able to converse with unbelievable ease. Take one example where, on a halted train, panic-stricken schoolboy Charlie is publicly harangued (she screams at him from about two feet away) by a fellow passenger for being on the phone to his grandfather, for the only reason that she is claustrophobic and wants to use his phone to call for help. It is beyond artistic licence; the script is full to bursting with these moments where one cannot help but doubt whether the writer has ever actually been on a Tube train.

This young cast also leave much to be desired. Delivery is at times incredibly laboured, with contrived jokes falling flat whilst butchered lines elicit titters of laughter from the bemused audience. Diamonds in the rough Morgen Johnson and Cosmo Lupton provide some redemption. The former plays with tenderness and pain recently separated young woman Mia, struggling to cope with life as a ‘me’ and no longer a ‘we’. Lupton, as school boy Charlie, captures well the inner resolve of a child who is being forced to grow up quickly, as he cares for his dementia-ridden grandfather.

There really is no other praise that can be offered to ‘Going Underground’. Its quest for emotionally arresting verisimilitude fails so spectacularly as to render the play almost unsalvageable. This is the dramatic equivalent of being stuck on the Northern Line in July: nigh unendurable misery and disappointment.



Catherine Turner; 9th Aug 2016; 16:32:23

Don't agree with this review - I was in the audience when the reviewers were there and everyone loved it. It's sweet and funny in places, the cast are young but that doesn't stop me enjoying it. There's lots of talent in the cast and the play is an entertaining 40 minutes or so of thought provoking conversation and moments.

Lucy Anderson; 9th Aug 2016; 17:58:10

Saw this today and really liked it, it was funny and also in places sad at the same time. My friends also at Uni with me also liked it and we aren't sure why the reviewers didn't.

David Donelly; 9th Aug 2016; 18:14:02

Happened to be in the venue just before the performance started today and purchased a ticket prior to reading to the reviews. I must say that I was actually quite impressed by the quality of the young performers especially by the girl with the egg on her top and the girl who stays on the tube and doesn't go home. It's a young group handling mature themes but it stands above other performances I've seen this week staged by older, univesity based groups.

David Donelly; 9th Aug 2016; 18:16:26

Sorry, pressed the wrong star rating! Should have been a 4* rating.....

Deirdre Gannon; 10th Aug 2016; 11:07:06

Having read the above reviews I can only surmise that Ed Grimble attended an entirely different play as far as his comments on the audience's reactions to the performance. He failed to see that the audience responded very positively to the actors onstage, irrespective of their age range. Perhaps he misinterpreted their reactions? He certainly misinterpreted the play in places.

It also seems quite cheap that reviewers would slate what is most likely the actors' first time at the Fringe, and surely not in keeping with the spirit of the festival?

Audience Avg.

4 votes, 5 comments

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