Propellor

Wed 1st – Mon 27th August 2018

reviews

Tamzin Kerslake

at 17:25 on 10th Aug 2018

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A energetic ensemble cast of newly graduated Scottish actors come together to change the world. Well, to make a start anyway. Caitlin Skinner has teamed up with The Network Ensemble to bring a fresh troupe of newly graduated Scottish performers to the Fringe stage. This group of Millennials are sick of corporate ways, Tories, and a distinct lack of trains in their small Scottish town of Lochaven. Although reluctant to begin with, they band up together to rouse up the town and campaign to their MSP to reopen the train service. Though they be but young, they soon realise the power of the collective voice.

Every performer in 'Propellor' gave a distinct character, working well as both individual and ensemble, yet a special mention to the cheeky and charming Ross Dannachie as Hamish, and Sophie MacClean playing the blustering ray of sunshine, Emma. Not once did their energy falter and their characterisation of their positive roles were a driving force for the rest of the ensemble. They brought momentum through their relentless fight to improve Lochie, whilst their chemistry on stage added a layer to build relationships past the foundation of individual characterisation.

The first few scenes seemed to drag out, with lack lustre performances and unmemorable dialogue that could come off a little too plausibly as boredom from the actors. However, much to their credit, the energy certainly lifted as the show went on. Strength certainly came in the collective moments, with genuine joy throughout the disco and later protests resonating across the auditorium.

There were certainly some heartfelt moments. Particular stand-out sections included the understated and compassionate poem for the homeless. Ensemble work was further used to revise important pieces of recent history, such as the 2005 and 1984 protests and strikes. This clever mirroring brought a reflection upon the power of the human voice and the rallying cry of the people.

The use of montage through physical theatre had mixed reception: whilst at times it showed the frustration and ongoing changing of the work, other times it seemed like a filler point - uncertain in both action and meaning. More conviction was needed to use this dramatic technique to its full potential; something that can easily be lifted, with a bit of revision, to create a polished and slick scene.

The final scenes saw the ensemble come together in a symbol of friendship for a rendition of their own protest song sang to the tune of ‘Faith’. The cheesy song choice and cheeky grins perfectly captured this pleasant and charming production. Although it may not change the world, it certainly brought a smile to my day.

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Claire Louise Richardson

at 13:04 on 11th Aug 2018

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'Propeller' describes itself as a production about power and the possibility of change. As a political piece that is not about Brexit, Trump or Mrs May, and a social piece that is not about sensitive, psychological issues, it escapes the social and political topics dominating the stage this summer. Instead, it is a refreshing story about a group of young, frustrated individuals from the Scottish town Lochie. They want to improve the town’s railway connections to Edinburgh and ‘get Lochie back on track’, transcending their social confines.

With all the weird and wonderful fictional acts about, this play pulls us back to the gritty reality of the struggles of those individuals, ‘sick and tired of being a cog in a machine’. We are placed on the doorstep of the Fringe, but set in 1984, exploring identity through location and connectivity, as these youths lobby their local MP, Jenny Fraser. She tells them that they can barely afford to refurbish pavements, let alone to build expensive new infrastructure. In a world of technology, we can forget the greater importance that geographical connections played only a few decades ago, and this makes us think of the difficulties of prioritisation in politics.

As a performance, the chance to explore emotions and expand on characterisation was swamped by an excessive use of the stage space. One of the most compelling, or rather, propelling, scenes, being of two characters simply chatting while walking along a train track. Caitlin Skinner’s use of stage space is fantastic, complimenting the theme of staying connected physically, but there are moments, significantly during some physical dance scenes, when too much is happening. The hairography, head-banging and chair-slamming breaks up dialogue and lightens the mood, but equally is unnecessary. Emphasis is also constantly found with curse words, rather than through the writing, but perhaps that is a light-hearted nod to its Scottish setting. Some more comedy could have been injected, instead, to lighten the mood – the comment "we need to make them see what it feels like to be a train" could have been explored, for example. Nevertheless, the serious narrative is unique, thoughtful and gritty.

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