America Is Hard to See
  • By Liam Rees
  • |
  • 14th Aug 2019
  • |
  • ★★★★★

The Edinburgh Fringe is awash with shows designed to shock and push our buttons. For the seasoned Fringe-goer, the merry-go-round of attempted provocation can become tiresome but America Is Hard To See stands out from the crowd. Recognising that to err is human, but to forgive is divine, the creative team ask if it’s possible for us to forgive the unforgivable.

It asks us to be better, with the genuine belief that we can be

Based on interviews with sex offenders living in a rehabilitation community called Miracle Village, Travis Russ’ production is unflinching in the face of monstrousness, but also exemplary in its profound empathy. It manages to navigate the seemingly impossible task of humanising the abusers and respecting their boundaries, whilst also recognizing the victims’ trauma. There’s never just one version of events, and multiple truths coexist onstage. It’s complex. It’s hard. It asks us to be better, with the genuine belief that we can be. Who would have thought a play about paedophiles could be the most optimistic show of the Fringe?

Russ’ thorough research has been brought beautifully to life by the ensemble, who effortlessly inhabit different characters and recount their own experiences on research trips to Miracle Village. However it’s Priscilla Holbrook’s music that elevates America Is Hard To See to another level. Borrowing from Methodist hymns, the original music has a rustic, rough-around-the-edges feel; whilst pulling at the heartstrings and manipulating us just like the charming protagonists. From sunny Miracle Village to damp Cowgate, music brings together the judgemental and the judged. The central piano acts as an unobtrusive metaphor for the human condition - a little broken, but still able to produce something beautiful.

If ever we needed a reminder of that, it’s now.

Reviews by Liam Rees

Pleasance Courtyard

Bible John

★★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

America Is Hard to See

★★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

CONSPIRACY

★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

UNCONDITIONAL

★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Signals

★★★
Summerhall

Everything Not Saved

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

This daring new play uses a blend of verbatim interviews, Methodist hymns and original songs to investigate the lives in and around Miracle Village, a rural American community for sex offenders buried deep in Florida's sugar cane fields. Direct from a sell-out, award-winning run in NYC. **** (List). ***** (Fest). ***** (ThreeWeeks). ***** (ArthursSeat.com). Top 10 Plays of the Year (NewNowNext.com). 'Explosive and profound' (ExeuntNYC.com). 'Excellent and deeply moving' (Independent). 'Smart and troubling' (New York Times). 'Heartbreaking and complicated' (New Yorker). 'Hands down, the bravest show in NYC... Powerful performances electrify... supercharged script' (TheaterMania.com). 18+.

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