Traversing Edinburgh in August is sure to invite all sorts of flyerers. But this festival, you may be asked “Have you ever met a psychopath?” I suggest you follow up immediately. If your answer was ‘no’, it is about to change.
The Meeting is clever, striking and as sharp as a serial killer’s razor blade
The Meeting is an energetic, skillful and fascinating piece of theatre by BareWater Productions – a small-scale company originating from the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts – and University of Edinburgh-trained new writer Mell Flinn. We are initially confronted with what looks to be a support group meeting. A suited, eccentric looking man (Andrew, final year student Louis Gale) prepares for the members’ arrival. Each bring their own flavour and presence; Lisa’s feistiness (final year student Rebecca Ozer) and the spits and spats she shares with Jules (student Pete Smith) provide semi-violent delight before the tense arrival of newcomer Chris (student Jack Sanders). This fans the flames of the group’s madness while recurrent questioning after an absent member looms ominously.
The piece has a liveliness which is instantly apparent as the cast fantastically illustrates varying degrees of sanity. Through the frantic Jules (don’t call him Julian), the aggressive Lisa, the skittish Andrew - who appears to be their leader only officially - we experience a sightseeing tour of crazy before meeting Chris, who vehemently proclaims sanity. Gale and Sanders do a terrific job of illustrating the ambiguity of ‘sane’. Flinn has more than succeeded in creating enthralling figures with intriguing backstories, who’d be completely believable if you could fathom the extent of their insanity. Magic sparks from this mish-mash and thrilling interplay. The cast operates like a machine but remains natural. Miraculously, the text is expertly and carefully expressed despite the franticness.
The pacing is well set and consistently varied, while suspense is built with gripping moments like a particularly tense confrontation between Chris and Lisa. The play arguably gives too much away too quickly, and jumps from one unearthing to the next. The plot is forwarded and the audience is grasped but the piece may be relying on a constant supply of reveals to create drama. The in-the-round style works ingeniously to exhibit the dynamic movement of the characters in and around the space. A minimalist set compliments the rawness of the action, while occasional lightbulb flickering does multitudes for ambience. However, a tonally-stale general lighting state and distracting and seemingly unnecessary background audio stick out.
The play features well-investigated explorations of themes including mental health, violence and sexual assault. However one vivid moment should be noted by those wary of scenes displaying sexual violence. While the scene fits the play’s narrative and tone, taking more steps to warn viewers might be prudent. The play’s resolution is a stroke of genius, although audiences may be disappointed that they are quickly taken away from a new realm of possibilities. All in all The Meeting is clever, striking and as sharp as a serial killer’s razor blade – essential viewing for those seeking captivating narratives and energetic performances this Fringe.