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.