This Side of Paradise

The performance began in a small room to the side of the theatre space. This room is a former abattoir and meat hooks, veterinary equipment, a dissection table and intriguing cabinets have been left in the former Edinburgh University Veterinary School building that is now the Summerhall venue. To add to the unnerving strangeness the audience was beckoned into the room by a faceless man, clad in black and wearing a concealing balaclava. On the floor was a heap of white foam with what appeared to be a human in a white body sock lying underneath. This convulsing and pulsating white body could represent purity and goodness, but it definitely conveyed mystery and tension.

As the audience absorbed this peculiar scene, we were beckoned into the theatre space to take our seats, relieving some of the tension and allowing us to draw breath and consider what would happen next. The theatre was dark and a muffled motor sound pulsed around the room. This eerie soundtrack heightened the intensity and added to the bizarreness that ensued. On the floor of the stage further black clad bodies were present, awkwardly moving and curiously interacting with one another as if they were coming to terms with their environment and their bodies.

At around fifteen minutes into 'This Side Of Paradise' we see our first human face as one of the performers removes his black balaclava. Unfortunately this shatters some of the mystery. The bodies were augmented with body suits that distorted their anatomy and the performers movement had had more in common with deranged robotics, but now we have our first glimpse of reality. During this moment the soundtrack also stopped and the pace of the performance changes. 1970's funk and soul music bursts from the speakers, further breaking the illusion that we were in a dark fantasy and giving the performance a grounding in place and time that initially went against the grain of the unsettling piece. However, as the funk blared out and the performers made use of props to develop their characters, the juxtaposition of music and physicality blended together to create an enjoyable and finely crafted example of physical theatre that his hard to peg down.

The performance ends in the side room, where we see the white convulsing body on the dissection table. This time the body is motionless, that is until the face is revealed. We see a woman who has searching eyes that scream for help. One of the black clad men held medical instruments and began to conduct his own experiments on the woman's face. The stage doors are then opened and the audience is beckoned to leave. An ambiguous ending to an ambiguous performance.

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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The Blurb

A glorious wasteland, an Eden of ash. War-torn mutants play a de-humanised war game. Menace penetrates the void as each action brings them closer to violence. The piece explores our obsessive visions of apocalypse.

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