It's the 1930s. A kind girl in the rural American South has a case of horrendous acne. Because it's acne, she'd do anything to fix it, but when a freak medical treatment goes wrong, her face transforms into something truly horrific and she's treated as a monster. Geek is a show about differences, how we treat those people who we don’t like to look at and think about, and to the writer/director, Paul Perez, those differences are fundamentally at the core of the show. “Our piece,” he says, “is about learning to love oneself in spite of horrific circumstances, to see the beauty in others.”
Comic though it may be, it is also dark. That’s the promise Geek makes - fun, significant, and with fun, music to boot.
Geek is a modern-day Elephant Man story- a girl suffers from a deformity, is chased from her rural town, and is suckered in by a freak show who views her as nothing more than an attraction. But Perez wants more than a small tale: “What I want to show is that if we can have empathy, you will discover the inherent goodness and humanity in others.” This message speaks to a Southern America where goodness can at times seem fleeting. As a southerner myself, I’ve fallen into the trap that those who hope for a more accepting world have found; it’s hard to move forward when you’re at war with your neighbour. Perez acknowledges the fractures and knows it’s often hard to see beyond them. But he doesn’t feel the need to preach solely horrors. Take religion for example: “I try to show both sides of the coin,” he says. “Gibby and her mom both have a deep faith that sustains them... [while] Rev. Tom… uses it to gain influence, money, and power.” That duality is key to making a classic tale new and compelling.
But as compelling as that story is, it may not be as intriguing as the story of the company which built it, Infinity Rep. This is a company made of teenagers, led by teenagers, performs works chosen by those teenagers, and creates an opportunity for those of a younger generation to express their voice on the theatrical stage as professionals. Paul says that despite their age, they’re no amateurs; each of them have been working for 5 to 6 years, training in Meisner's Technique, and that as they grow up, they learn to mentor those around them: “Every moment is an opportunity for discovery,” the director notes, “It keeps me excited as a teaching artist to help them discover their voice and give them a platform with which to express themselves.” But it isn’t solely actors who are young- everyone involved with this production save Perez is under the age of 20.
For Paul and his writing partner, George Griggs, young people are the reason they wrote the show in the first place: “It is extremely important given the number of young people that suffer from poor body image, which results in eating disorders, depression and ultimately suicide.” Comic though it may be, it is also dark. That’s the promise Geek makes - fun, significant, and with fun, music to boot.
Geek is on at C Aquila, in The Lawnmarket at 19:05 until the 18th. Tickets can be purchased at the Venue, or online at the Fringe Box Office.