Britannia Waves the Rules

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (theatre): Britannia Waves the Rules at Summerhall @ The Roundabout (Venue 26a). Review by Sallt Stott

When I read that I was going to somewhere at Summerhall called “The Roundabout”, I expected to end up in the middle of a road with two lanes of traffic orbiting me. However, it’s actually one of the most beautiful Fringe venues I’ve seen – a modern-day take on a Big Top, designed by Lucy Osbourne and Emma Chapman for Paines Plough, with silver seats doused in neon-coloured lights. It’s an apt setting for Gareth Farr’s viscerally evoked story of a disaffected young man called Carl, living in Blackpool – home of the illuminations. But, as anyone who has been to the town knows, in the dilapidated streets behind the seafront there is far less sparkle.

Carl, played with pent-up, scowling intensity by Dan Parr, is torn between violent rages and making up poetry. His words are full of northern humour, wit and wry observations on his family and friends. The army offers him, like many other young men and women, a chance to “see the world”. But it is also a place where his anger is fed and poetry destroyed; where killing isn’t always a last resort but something that is done simply because it can be. “A job is a wage and a wage is a cage,” Carl says – and whether he’s signing on in Blackpool or shooting someone in Afghanistan it seems there’s no escape for him.

As Carl loses his ability to speak poetry he also loses sympathy; while Parr throws his entire body into showing the torment that wracks Carl’s mind, he isn’t a character held to account for his violence, simply portrayed as a victim of circumstance. “This is an important play,” at least two audience members say at the end, but it would be more so if it delved deeper into not only into society’s responsibilities, but those of anyone who decides to pick up a gun.

Until 10 August. Today 7:10pm.

Originally published in The Scotsman

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