Tuesday, March 5

Pass Out: Utter Filth – Traverse Theatre

For their HND showcase, the emerging performers from PASS at Edinburgh College devised and performed two pieces of theatre, both inspired by the provocative theme of “Utter Filth”.

In the first performance, “Utter Filth” is a nightclub.  The kind of place young people go to when they want to test their boundaries, with illicit substances aplenty. There are some nice group scenes, with collective movement and chit chat between the clubbers.

We are introduced to “Josh” (Joshua Thomson), a likeably awkward young man.  He is introduced to a group of friends by a mutual pal (Dan Webb) and there is some amusing dialogue between the two as Dan asks Josh to tone down his geekiness with these, clearly judgemental, new friends.

The group discuss what to do on their big night out.  “Can we just go to Hive”, someone says (Arisha Kuzmina), to a delighted response from her peers in the audience.  This “in joke” was a charming touch, and a nice way of reaching out to their fellow students at PASS.

The bustling Catherine-Star Blachford persuades everyone to go to Utter Filth (who wouldn’t), where they are greeted by a bouncer played by the marvellous Maeve Burden.  Burden’s world-weary swagger contrasts with the youthful exuberance of the other characters. In lieu of ID, Josh blags his way in with ibuprofen (the bouncer has a stonking headache).  As the bouncer, Burden delivers some cracking monologues.

The remaining action revolves around the bathroom, with clubbers in various states of inebriation. I laughed out loud when Ingrid Heron expressed disgust at taking drugs in a filthy toilet cubicle, then gleefully took them anyway.

Zoe Brown starts to wobble and her friend, Anesa Howard, takes care of her in a sweet scene that showcases friendship. Meanwhile, our friend Josh enters a state of confusion then collapses on the floor in a genuinely disturbing scene.  Eventually, his mates discover him and desperately try to revive him.

The first group of students created a piece that hung together coherently within a common setting.  The second group took a different approach, with a series of scenes with only a tenuous connection to each other.  To pull everything together, they all wore similar costumes – grey or white T-shirts with black trousers.  This added something hypnotic to the physical theatre sequences in particular; however, as a reviewer the costumes made it harder for me to identify the individual actors. I would advise students in showcase performances to wear clothes that mark them out as individuals.

I enjoyed Shannon Reiss’s contemplative performance as Marie Antoinette in her last few hours. As her death approaches, the other students perform a dance, with Reiss in the eye of the storm, calm and regal, eating cake.

Gwen Dolan delivers a poignant monologue as a bereaved mother.  The blue stains on the carpet remind her of her son, on the day when he decided to play with ink. The monologue shifts from humour to nostalgia, finally encompassing her heartbreak.

There is a lovely tender scene between two sisters, Zoe Maunder and Melanie Lang.  They meet up after being apart for a few years, bring up old conflicts, then bond again and laugh together. 

Both groups of students created some memorable moments within an enjoyable performance.  The space in Traverse 2 had seats on three sides of the stage, but a lot of the performance was primarily directed towards the central bank of seats. Since this is a showcase, it is particularly important that every student is seen from all angles, and I would advise future groups to consider this when staging their performance.

I will watch these young actors as they progress in their careers, and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Reviewer: Wendy McEwan

Reviewed: 18th April 2023

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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