Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (cabaret): Tomás Ford: Stop Killing People at Just the Tonic at the Mash House (Venue 288). Review by Ben Walters
“We’re going to get through this,” Tomás Ford reassures the room as he wipes what looks like blood from his face and tosses the cloth towards us. This kind of push-pull relationship with the audience – a peculiar mating ritual of hectoring, seducing, alarming and embracing – is central to what Ford does. The Australian performer brought intense, euphoric electro-cabaret sets to the Fringe in 2012 and 2013, but Stop Killing People marks a new direction.
Still present are the pounding, looping, weirdly catchy tunes, the raw, emotive voice, the warped puppy-dog humour, the expressionistic video visuals and the unique audience rapport. But here the set-up is that of a movie – a noir spy thriller romance, in which Ford’s globetrotting yet world-weary character searches for his missing love while pursuing a crime cartel through a haze of sex, drugs and violence. It’s a bit like if Chris Marker made a Jason Bourne film starring Patrick Bateman’s nicer brother.
For a small production, it’s terrifically ambitious. The whole show plays out against ambient video projection (some of it filmed in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore) that suggestively establishes environment and character, and Ford deftly juggles his leading-man duties with a DIY approach to music, lighting and props.
Holding it all together is his sophisticated ability to commentate on the unfolding show without undermining it, enlisting the audience as his collaborators: it felt as if at some point everyone in the room was hugged, slapped, massaged or drafted into service as a dance partner, technical adviser or wardrobe assistant.
Crucially, it’s a strong story too, starting obliquely but developing a propulsive clarity to become a vivid tale of passion, betrayal and way too much booze that stays with you after the final rifle sight has faded from the screen.
Until 24 August. Today 9:40pm, more info
Originally published in The Scotsman
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