Review by Carly Fisher
There’s a common conversation going around in many Arts communities at the moment that audiences are craving escapism, that they are looking to Art to forget about the world and all of its current problems and to release for even just an hour or two.
Though Art can offer that for those who need it, Twenty People a Minute is a reminder about why we need the Arts for so much more than that.
Set in 2030, the show tackles the current statistics that suggest that by then, twenty people per minute could be displaced for their home, forced to seek refuge, for a multitude of reasons. In Samantha Robinson’s new play, these reasons range from an intense political swing leading to rampant homophobia, a tyrant force limiting women’s rights once again, climate refugees and refugees escaping their governments, their militaries, etc.
We meet our four protagonists on ‘Waiting Island,’ a man made island that belongs to no country, no group and set in the middle of the waters and run by peace keepers. They are asked about how they got to the island and so we begin to follow each of their journeys in getting here. Trauma laced and fear laden, as you can imagine, all four journeys are dangerous, exhausting, inhumane, unimaginable…
The conditions may be fictionalised but the stark realisation that this is not totally made up, this is not beyond the realm of possibility, sits heavy in my stomach as I watch. This is why seeing challenging Art like this matters and why I cannot encourage audiences enough to brave the deep, hard hitting stories…2030 is not far away.
Robinson is an exceptionally talented playwright, fusing poetry with language to give the piece such a beautiful rhythm. The piece covers a lot of ground in just an hour but does so with clarity, purpose and with an authenticity that reminds us that these imagined circumstances are not so far beyond the scope that if we do not act, they could not occur. A haunting piece, Robinson has much to be very proud of here.
It is Tom Mullins’ treatment of the text though that ultimately makes this fringe show as successful as it is. The direction is clear, the blocking precise, the use of synchronicity inspiring. You can see and feel how many tireless hours went into creating and rehearsing this and it has certainly paid off. I left inspired by Mullins’ work and look forward to seeing what he works on next.
Ian Sutherland’s music underscores the show very well. At just a couple of moments, I wanted silence, with the music threatening to distract from the text, but that was rare. Generally, I thought it fit beautifully and beyond just its place in the piece, the actual music composed proves Sutherland to be at the top of his game.
Isabelle Velarde, Benjamin Cheetham, Michael Reddington and Melissa Ainsworth ultimately are why this show works as well as it does. Each gives such a powerful performance - the emotional drain from doing this show must be huge. They have created well formed, authentic characters and have clearly given both their characters’ current circumstances and past lives a great deal of thought to accomplish what they have at such a high standard.
This is a thought provoking, goosebump raising piece of new theatre that is executed brilliantly. This show needs a more prominent theatre than its current setting and I hope that it has a great life beyond the fringe. One of the most surprisingly accomplished shows of the fringe - one to see.