Current Location

Mon 17th – Sun 30th August 2015

reviews

Rowena Henley

at 10:40 on 19th Aug 2015

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The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was an incident with repercussions both greater and more complex than anyone first realised. By extension of the physical effects, widespread anxiety about radio exposure spread amongst the evacuees, leading to psychological disturbances born from a feeling of fatalism. Toshiki Okada’s Current Location and FellSwoop Theatre’s later adaptation draw from Fukushima, but recreate it in reverse. When a strange blue cloud forms over a fictional village, we see the sense of presentiment and the subsequent anxiety entrap and destroy its inhabitants before the event has even occurred.

The beauty and horror of Current Location lay in its subtlety. Except for a few climactic outbursts and one shocking event, the tone of the piece remained intentionally muted and monotonous in order to communicate the sense of repression these women felt by living superficially ordinary lives in an extraordinary time. Often monotony can degrade a piece of theatre, but FellSwoop used it to create a pace perfect for their story: one which instilled you with a false sense of security and simultaneously terrified you with the prospect of what was to come.

The staging of this piece worked in tandem with its content, with a traverse stage creating a feeling of division and surveillance. The actors rarely walked completely out of sight, but instead took a seat in the audience when not required onstage. This technique fostered a sense of community and involvement for the spectators, but also one of intense and relentless scrutiny, which, once again, added to the allegory of the piece.

The five actresses (Charlotte Allan, Caitlin Ince, Emma Keaveney Roys, Roisin Kelly and Pia Laborde Noguez) in Current Location were truly remarkable. The most inspiring element of their performances was the clear understanding of and connection to the intricacies of their piece and its characters. It is from here that they could develop the astounding sense of realism which defined every aspect of Current Location.

If I could find one fault amongst the brilliance of this piece it would be that, at points, the content crept from the intriguingly cryptic to the completely abstruse. I found myself perplexed by certain scenes within the performance because the content felt redundant and confused. However, it could be argued that this was entirely intentional. This is a play where we are not control, where we are not allowed to understand everything, and where we should feel a certain sense of discordance and subsequent discomforts.

Current Location is a show that really needs to be seen to be understood. It is difficult to describe the way in which is grasps hold of you, and I have no doubt that it will touch its spectators in different ways. If you want to see a truly mesmerising piece of theatre this Fringe, I implore you to head down to Summerhall and buy your ticket to Current Location as soon as possible.

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Caspar Jacobs

at 11:39 on 19th Aug 2015

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Halfway through Current Location, I suddenly thought of that chilling footage of Oppenheimer, the creator of the atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima, saying “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”. Afterwards I discovered that the show actually is an adaptation of a play by the Japanese playwright Toshiki Odaka. Japan has been haunted by radioactivity from WWII to Fukushima. In FellSwoop's adaptation, the horror of nuclear decay makes place for more distant disasters: the imminent destruction of the world by climate change.

“What do those words actually mean, the whole world obliterated? Everything we know and love just totally disappears?” Every day there is death and despair. As the play points out, the world is falling apart incrementally. But we don't make a big fuss out of it. Some people say the bees are going extinct. Some people say they're not. Who should we believe? In the play, there are only these rumours. It is never clear what the dystopian future looks like. The audience never gets the chance to leave the intimate choir rehearsal room in which the story is set. Yet they feel what it is like nonetheless.

FellSwoop's Bertrand Lasca says that “the language the characters speak in this play feels very contrived: they can no longer express their emotions and feelings correctly. It’s as if we’ve gone a step too far and people have stopped behaving normally or feeling empathetic towards the situation.” The idea that without intense personal communication we can never move from a world of whispers to a world of facts is explored throughout Current Location. The opening shows one of the choir-singers approaching their conductor, asking if they can talk. But the actors stand as far apart from each other as possible on the stage, unable to express empathy.

Later on Hanna, the outsider, pleads to be friends with the choir-singers. She also needs to communicate. But this openness (symbolised by the actress undressing on stage to change out of her wet clothes) disturbs the choir's micro-community. In the end, with the village threatened to be destroyed, it appears there are only two options: flight or denial. The third way, addressing the issue by reaching truth through human contact, is simply too hard. But if the play has a moral, it is that that is what we should do.

Both Okada and FellSwoop succeed in the immensely difficult task of expressing the way these people who are unable to express themselves are feeling. Somehow, they create an understated scenario that is still as overwhelming as the apocalypse. Oppenheimer might have been the destroyer of worlds, but artists are creators of worlds. And that is exactly what Current Location does.

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