Following a turbulent year of politics and current affairs, this year’s Fringe programme is unsurprisingly loaded with all manner of shows trying to make sense of the world in 2017.
Border Tales is essential theatre for the political climate of today.
Each cast member offers a different perspective on the reasons behind and the effects of stereotyping. There is the white Andy Gardiner from Yorkshire, around whose perhaps unintentionally bigoted views the project revolves; the Irish Stephen Moynihan; Salah El Brogy from Egypt; Temitope Ajose Cutting, a Nigerian-born Londoner; the Taiwanese-Chinese Yuyu Rau; Kenny Ho from Hong Kong and, performing the live music, the Colombian Anthar Kharana. The production’s technique moves by way of contrasting ensemble against individual set pieces and through pitting stereotype against reality. The speed and dynamism of the ensemble scenes acutely intensify and spotlight the points at which individuals are given a voice. A passage in which Kenny talks about trying to fulfil the standards of a certain British notion of masculinity, and about his identity and upbringing more generally, is quietly heart-wrenching and performed with superb skill. Sometimes one actor is played against the rest of the ensemble, as in a painfully uncomfortable moment involving Salah. Protein know their discipline; the thoughtful use of structure and form is testament to their mastery of their craft. This extends beyond control of the theatrical medium to the choreography of the dance itself. Vibrant and loud, Silvestrini and his company have devised an extraordinary sequence of movements.
Not all in this project is gloomy. While constantly reflective and thought-provoking, the tone is capable of light-hearted buoyancy too. Many sections are outright hilarious, and Andy’s bigotry is more often presented as comic satire than dangerous ignorance in a way that does not detract from the power of the message.
By turns laugh then tear inducing, Border Tales is essential theatre for the political climate of today. The performers left Summerhall to a raucous standing ovation, an exit I am sure they will become familiar with this August.