• By Tom King
  • |
  • 17th Aug 2011
  • |
  • ★★★

Few would argue that the Fringe isn’t all about showcasing up-and-coming talent. Many actors and dramatists have had their first break here when comparatively green and inexperienced. Inevitably though, the Fringe’s success has also been its downfall, with the rising cost of putting on a show effectively excluding many younger groups.Which is why shows like Cu*ts are very refreshing. Written and performed by Nomadic Theatre, a group of A-level theatre students from St Marylebone CE School in London, it examines the impact in 2009 of changes to the exam boards which resulted in students receiving much lower grades than predicted. At a time when deferring a university place for a year would mean paying astronomically higher fees, this gulf between what students were expecting and what they ended up with was catastrophic.The subject is obviously one worth talking about and there’s a real sense of authenticity in being presented with it by actors this age. The performers onstage are going through exactly the same stresses as their characters did two years ago and the results are surprisingly powerful. Friendships are torn apart over who can afford to study harder and who has to work; kids get so swept up in the hysteria of disappointing results that they self-harm; strangers almost come to blows over who had the most unfair advantages.Where the production suffers is not its content or its performances, it’s the way it’s presented. Ironically, for a show that challenges arbitrary formal assessment, there feels like there’s a lot of drama-class box-ticking going on; sing a song, be a Greek chorus, do some mime. This, and the repeated, slightly forced metaphor of exam cuts vs. self-harm, conspire to make the play feel a little clichéd. This is only natural, given the freshness of the company, and something which a few more years of experience should deal with. However, until then, Cu*ts doesn’t quite have the polish required for a four star Fringe show.Three stars may seem harsh but Nomadic Theatre deserve the respect of being held to the same standards as their fellow actors. To hold their own against much more experienced performers and to produce a show which hits the very high overall standard of the Fringe is a fantastic achievement. Four and five star reviews are within reach, just keep doing what you’re doing.

Reviews by Tom King

Underbelly, Cowgate

Lucy Farrett: Lois

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

She Sells Sea Shells

★★★★
Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square / Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★

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The Blurb

In 2008 examination boards changed. Cu*ts charts the lives of those whose creativity, belief in fair assessment and sense of social justice was shattered. Who pays the ultimate price?

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