Steam feels incredibly fresh, examining issues of abuse and trauma through a different lens than many other shows at the Fringe.
Set to an addictive electronic soundtrack from Alexander McNally, the cast launch into some slick choreography, telling the story of Eve’s (Rosa Cains) relationship with two men (Jim Murrell and Joseph Gabriel Vogarty-Graveson) and the scars they leave behind. Writer and director Dom Luck confronts the audience with Eve’s deteriorating mental state in an intensely visual and visceral manner. A chorus of three women jabber and molest Eve, representing her fraught inner dialogue and mental turmoil more powerfully than a purely naturalistic performance – though perhaps the chorus could have been more energetically deranged to put further pressure on Eve. The strong physicality lends the piece a surprising power; Eve is literally assaulted by her thoughts.
Some intense performances up the ante further, turning the play into a pressure cooker of violent emotion. Both of Eve’s boyfriends have a consistently turbulent stage presence and almost smother the audience as much as they do Eve. Indeed sometimes the relentless intensity can become exhausting, and the lack of respite from heated emotion can sometimes come at the expense of subtlety of characterisation.
Luck’s occasionally over-fraught prose is part of the problem here, and his repetition of certain passages can become an annoying stylistic quirk. He often writes very well for Eve however, and both the prose and Cains’ delivery in her final scene is refreshingly stark and honest. Overall, the sense of Eve’s traumatic experience slowly taking over her life until she’s “numb to everything except it” is achieved with devastating results.
Luck’s ability to spill the contents of Eve’s mind on to the stage makes for some really engaging theatre – all the more impressive considering that this is student writing. Inventive, brash and arresting, Steam feels incredibly fresh, examining issues of abuse and trauma through a different lens than many other shows at the Fringe.