Fourth Monkey's Genesis and Revelation: Ascension Part 1

The Genesis + Revelation cycle by Fourth Monkey promises “traditional Bible stories with a contemporary twist”. I struggle to see what’s contemporary about Ascension Part 1; it’s a mishmash of apocalypse imagery and shouting, unfettered by sense. Not that this is a bad thing. Drama students get to show off their loudest and wildest selves, and occasionally they bring us along for the ride.

It’s shock-and-awe, brute-force theatre which is bound to wake you for its midnight action.

Artistic Director Steven Green plucks parts from the Book of Revelation, crushes them in his hands and throws them on a fire, and presents the blaze as a show. I’d like to call this a loose adaptation, but it’s honestly so gnomic you can’t tell whether some secret one-to-one correspondence exists with the biblical source.

There is a throughline, however, in William Hunt’s John, the scribe who’s desperate to chronicle the end of days. He’s struggling, as some freaky foursome (some allusion to horsemen) have blinded him, leaving him to master a second sight. He’ll meet said foursome, a laddish bunch of trampers on a purifying journey and he’ll also endure trial by ghostly bureaucrats and the company of clowns. Don’t expect to get it, but expect to get caught up in the atmosphere - the whirling, writhing atmosphere.

Unfortunately, rapt interest is rare. There’s too much in sound to see and hear, and I often found it alienating, particularly since it’s a midnight show. The physical theatre is the lowlight, giving too little room for a massive cast to move with force.

There are 27 actors in Ascension’s cast. The standouts are Stamatia-Ann Katriou, Eleanor Wright and Sam Cornforth. Katriou in particular is chilling as a KGB-style demon with reaper claws. Conversely, Wright cuts across the torrent with her naturalistic mother-figure, a marvellous change to the fiery rest. Then there’s Cornforth who, in short, is a master clown and definitely one to watch. He’s got the best physicality of any Fringe performer I’ve seen; his clown-man diminishes and increases, saddens and brightens with a gripping virtuosity.

The Book of Revelation is a mess, so it’s no wonder Fourth Monkey’s Ascension takes a left-field approach. It’s shock-and-awe, brute-force theatre which is bound to wake you for its midnight action. I’m pleased for my ignorance here; I’ve got no idea what to expect in Part 2.  

Reviews by Oliver Simmonds

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The Blurb

'Theatre at its most inventive' ***** (Stage). 'Unbelievable' ***** (FringeGuru.com). 'It was perfect' ***** (EdinburghGuide.com). 'Frankly wonderful' **** (Scotsman). Following the sell-out success of the immersive late-night Alice in 2014, Fourth Monkey return to the Fringe with another late-night offering. In two digestible and complimentary parts Ascension explores man's relationship and perception of our world as we know it today. Ascension is a midnight exploration of the apocalypse. 'The four horsemen are coming for all of us, it's just a question of when.'

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