Review by Carly Fisher
We often hear about how religion divides people, how it acts as a barrier for many in trusting and bonding with others who believe differently to themselves. Less regularly do we hear stories where religion forces that divide to be within one’s own family - it’s not unheard of, but it’s not an overly told or shared story either. And because of this, because of the mystique of the lesser understood religions, and the secrecy of them, the audience sits through Horizon Showcase: Birthmarked with even deeper respect for the artist before us and the extremely personal story he is sharing.
Brook Tate’s Edinburgh 2023 show ‘Birthmarked’ is, unquestionably, a triumph. A gig theatre piece about his life growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness and how his sexuality forced him to be excommunicated, essentially, from his community, the show is unique, sincere, deeply emotional and beautifully inspiring simultaneously.
As a multi-disciplinary artist, Tate has brought so many facets of himself as a creative to this one piece. More than just a singer/musician, Tate proves his chops as a writer, a painter and an artist as well. Merging his love for creating children’s books for his nieces and nephews whom he is no longer allowed to see, with a 5 piece band for ‘gig theatre’ (ie. concert style) is original and its success, genius.
To say that this is a generous show would be to undermine the amount that Tate shares and the insight that is given into a religion that many know little about. Despite what it has put him through, Tate speaks of it respectfully, acknowledging its many wrongs but never blaming that on the people who believe it. I felt that this balance was extremely dignified and showed Tate off in an exceptionally positive light.
The band, made up largely of Tate’s friends, is fantastic. They are playful, engaged, talented and ready to jump into a crazy costume to support their leading performer. A close knit group, the band is an enormous reason that this show is as successful as it is. The stand out of course is the drummer, Eva Redman, who doubles as the whale (and, it would seem, as one of Tate’s best friends). As well as being a great percussionist, her shy, laid back whale characterisation is so on point the it makes the show.
The puppet for the whale is gorgeous! Made out of a garden parasol, the show’s production qualities, especially costuming, are extremely well executed and high in quality.
I believe strongly that this show is going to go on to a much bigger life so I am not going to give any spoilers on the storyline but I will just say that it was refreshing to see a show where such enormous pain has been turned into even larger heart. I think that the world needs a lot of that right now. If you see that this show is on near you, go in with an open mind and open heart and be ready for an evening of gorgeous storytelling!
An enormous congratulations to all involved, but especially to Tate, who simply shines through the show and radiates a strength and sense of positivity that are even brighter than the enormous chandeliers that adorn the beautiful Assembly Rooms hall the show was performed in.