Electric Eden

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Emily Cole

at 10:23 on 8th Aug 2016

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A crowd of people ask you to grab a drink. They decorate your face in UV paint, request your signature for a petition, and encourage you to dance, sing, clap and mingle with fellow members of the audience. These are all typical components of an immersive theatre production, except for the fact it was near impossible to actually distinguish between performer and audience member.

I spent the first ten minutes conversing with a woman about my new and UV-improved face before watching her seamlessly slink away to the dance floor to join one of the slickest flash mobs I’ve ever seen. My initial embarrassment at being so wondrously fooled was overshadowed by the impressiveness of the cast’s ability to truly immerse the audience in a hugely wonderful 'Eden' of entertainment.

Considering the various components of the production – music, dance, prose and poetry - the flow of the production is effortlessly smooth and coherent. Switches between dance and dialogue are never staggered or awkwardly placed, and each character’s monologue is engaging and entrancing with their stylistic and metrically creative spoken-word.

The quality of every actor remains on the same high level, tapping into relatable stories which deal with confusions of love, growing up, disappointments, moral stand-points and settling down. The interaction with the audience is neither intimidating nor forced, but rather a perfectly balanced. It helps provide an intimate yet non-invasive immersion for the audience into this group of misfits. The plotline itself is fast-paced, straightforward, and potentially simplistic. However, each actor somehow manages to tease out such depth to their characters.

Having seen several shows in the few days I have been here, this production, by Not Too Tame, has been the first to have flown by. The only disappointment was watching the cast all leave through the front doors to end such a hugely charming, fun and exhilarating production. Officially earning the title of my favourite performance of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe so far, this is one you cannot possibly miss.

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Ed Grimble

at 12:21 on 8th Aug 2016

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Not Too Tame’s latest offering, ‘Electric Eden’, is deliriously good fun. Wandering into The Electric Circus night club a gaudy ELECTRIC EDEN festival-esque wristband is clamped onto my arm, and before I know it I have been shepherded to a well-stocked bar and daubed with fetching face paint. The notebook is replaced by a gin and tonic, as ‘Electric Eden’ gets well and truly underway.

The play is set in the wake of the death of eighty-seven year old busker and local legend Tommy Eden, killed in an altercation with security after he refused to leave his patch outside the club. Led by granddaughter and mother-to-be Grace (played feistily by Louise Taggerty), the audience is immersed in the efforts of a local campaign group who are seeking to honour Tommy’s legacy and thwart the machinations of faceless, callous, corporate health-spa baron Andrew Sheldon.

Although blindingly obvious, the nature of immersive, promenade theatre like this is that there is nowhere for the cast to hide. This is true both figuratively and literally, in that the actors are always on display, and must be alert to the ever-changing potential and unpredictability of this kind of theatre. Some audiences may be more receptive than others to being given a neon makeover and then dragged onto a dance floor to bop alongside trained performers. It is a credit to the verve of this talented young cast, championed by the magnificent Andrew Butler, that inhibitions were soon discarded and the atmosphere inside The Electric Circus remained riotous and lively throughout- the ending of the play after barely an hour was a disappointment to all.

Plays like this can often suffer from style over substance, where the spectacle of immersive and site-specific staging becomes a smoke screen to hide mediocre writing. Not Too Tame’s work does not make this mistake. In a series of charged, naturalistic interchanges (punctuated by roof-raising ensemble dances set to a cracking decade-spanning playlist), the play reveals its emotional and sociological depth.

‘Electric Eden’ explores the nature of community, social camaraderie, and the inescapable fact that however strong a group may feel, it is always fundamentally a collection of individuals who possess their own desires, moral codes, and aspirations. Community is fragile, fissiparous, but still something wonderful with tremendous potency.

If ‘Electric Eden’ is not consistently playing to a packed venue soon, it will be a travesty. A melee of tremendous fun that still manages to deliver provocative, poignant episodes, this is a play to attend and really experience with gusto rather than watch mutely.

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