Letters, Boxes and Other Things That Shouldn't Be Opened

It’s hard to know how to judge Rare Notions Theatre Company’s first contribution to the Edinburgh Fringe. The show, put on by sixth form students from Alcester Grammar School, is in fact two separate plays originally performed for their A level exams. The first is a tale of angst and woe told through the developing and somewhat turbulent relationship of a young couple. It is very highly charged emotionally, dealing with heavy issues, and at times borders on the melodramatic. The second is a dark comedy - with more emphasis on the comedy than the dark - a much lighter affair that creates the delightfully surreal world of an oppressive paper factory.

And it’s here that the major issue occurs: the juxtaposition of the pieces and the format in general. Whilst there were recurring themes throughout, there was never enough to fully justify a split show. For example, although the second performance was extremely funny, at times it suffered from the under-appreciation of an audience that had just emerged from the first play’s emotional battering. Furthermore, it was hard not to feel that if Rare Notions had concentrated their efforts on either one, the audience might have been left with a more concise and complete show. Instead the performance created the impression that the group were restricted to fulfilling A level criteria rather than adapting their material to suit the Fringe.

This was a shame as, individually, both plays certainly had merits. The first used elements of physical theatre in an effective and unconventional manner that meshed well with the Tom McRae’s music. The use of multiple actors to play the main female character was well executed, and succeeded in creating a dynamic flow between scenes. The second performance benefited from taking itself less seriously, which helped it avoid appearing pretentious. The surreal world was inhabited by some wonderfully bizarre characters; it would have been intriguing to see them develop and explore their dreamlike universe over the full fifty minutes. It must be said that overall the confident and assured performances in both sections make this show worthwhile if a tad confused.

Since you’re here…

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The Blurb

A woman whose life is corrupted by overwhelming fear of what may happen after opening a mysterious box. The extremist world of a paper factory where words on paper are banned.

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