Fourth Monkey's Genesis and Revelation: Ascension Part 2

Here we go again. The other half of Fourth Monkey’s Ascension is here, though according to them the parts are “complementary, but independent”. And they are complementary, if by ‘complementary’ you mean utterly the same in tone, image and structure. Part 2 is no less opaque than its younger brother, offering the same yelping maelstrom of Revelation. With luck it’ll stir you for its late viewing time at five to midnight.

Ascension’s so fitful and out-there that, at times, it shares more genetically with dance than theatre

Emily Ralph’s red-painted lady leads the piece while our previous hero, John, takes a backseat. The weird cadence of Ralph’s speech aside, I’m guessing she’s meant to be the Whore of Babylon. We see her interact with various peoples, the aim being to explore the different vibes and feelings of those caught in the endtimes. I’m speaking vaguely here because, well, what’s the point in being precise? Ascension’s so fitful and out-there that, at times, it shares more genetically with dance than theatre. There is some continuity with the first part, though: we check in on the boisterous, trekking horsemen; we also get another iteration of the KGB-style demon with reaper claws. But even the new stuff we’ve essentially seen before.

I’m tempted to give Ascension Part 2 two stars for not changing it up, yet there’s one scene that’s stopping me. There’s this seven-headed, Rupert Murdoch creature who controls the world media at Reaper Claws’ behest. She invites a group of magnates to strike a deal, though it’s one-sided: she’ll control them because she, ultimately, controls language, which they cannot live without. If this sounds indecipherable, that’s fine. Just know that Fourth Monkey’s gnomic vision plays out well here. It’s the first outstanding moment in their entire two hours, and you wish they could have maintained this. Just as in Part 1, Sam Cornforth is top dog for this scene. His arch archdemon cuts a louche figure in an over-the-top and heavily underused role. Following his absence he was soon missed.

Like it starts, Ascension ends weirdly, and this isn’t to do with content. Formally, it feels like it should be leading somewhere. But it never acts on that feeling, and I know why it’s so strange. It’s Ascension’s issue in general: no matter how inventive it gets, the show’s all climaxes wihout a sense of progress. And that’s a bummer: there are twenty-seven lively actors here, but the show’s all fits and starts.

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Performances

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The Blurb

'A magical experience' ***** (A Younger Theatre). 'Unforgettable' ***** (Stage). 'Perfect, quirky and gripping' ***** (BritishTheatreGuide.info). 'A must-see show' ***** (FringeReview.co.uk). 'A hit' **** (List). Following the sell-out success of the immersive late-night Alice in 2014, Fourth Monkey return to the Fringe with another late-night experience. Ascension, split into two independent yet complimentary parts, explores the human condition. Uncompromisingly delivered by a company renowned for its bold and unflinching work, Ascension Parts 1 and 2 offer a late-night experience like no other on the Fringe. The four horsemen await.

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