Thursday, September 21

Over The Waves – Traverse Theatre

Established in 2009, Edinburgh’s Strange Town Youth Theatre has developed into something of an institution for theatrical experimentation in the City and is known for pushing the boundaries of what young people are capable of. And like all experiments, perhaps not every project works or turns out exactly as planned.

There is a feeling, in this hour long show of a great idea which has not been fully realised, and yet should nevertheless be applauded for its vision and its scale and its courage.

The stage is set within the steeply banked Traverse 1 with a central great grey monolith carved with lists of faded names, reminiscent of a war memorial. At the front apron of the stage a chalk outline of a body suggests a recent murder. Around the stage buzz five characters questioning each other and the audience, ‘why are we here, why are you here’?. Interesting.

However, with a cast of some 17 young people and with no single protagonist, and with a bit of a scatter gun approach the story as it tries to develop is certainly difficult to follow and to connect with. Part murder mystery, part re-enactment of historical memories of some of the actual relatives of the cast on stage. Some of the most poignant moments are in the reliving of real memories from great grandfathers or grandmothers in the first or second world wars.

Another nice touch is a lighting effect where with the aid of a UV light source we see that the stage is actually covered in multiple chalk body outlines. We also find out that all of the actor’s names are already carved on the monolith. So, we come to the inevitable realisation that everyone on stage is dead, is just a ghost of a memory.

It was no surprise at all to find that writer/director James Beagon has a background in the study of ancient and medieval history, and his passion for this shines clearly through this work.

Whilst this was clearly a group effort two of the cast deserve special mention. Rubber-faced, Jason Sparrow as Edward has great comic timing and delivery and has the look and mannerisms of a young Martin Clunes. Likewise, the diminutive Jacob Watson punches well above his weight with great wit and voice projection and shines extra bright.

In the spirit of the experimental nature of this youth theatre production, my opinion here is more of a summary, rather than a critical artistic review. Likewise, I have not allocated a star rating to this piece.

Given our recent memories are of theatres going dark, streets empty of cars, it was great to see the young people on stage doing something they clearly love, and I look forward to seeing their next experiment.

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 15th June 2023