Monday, August 23, 2010

"2020 Vision" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Perhaps "2020 Vision" has suffered from being pared down to fit a tight timeslot, or perhaps the "devised by the company" credit has left them all too closely involved to see it from the view of an audience member. Either way, the result is that we're left feeling that a vital piece of the jigsaw is missing. However, while the structure of the show may be problematic, it features some absolutely exquisite moments.

Set in a call centre after a catastrophic event has trapped the staff inside, the action intercuts between several timeframes including previous events in the office and what appear to be flashbacks of individual characters. The time switches between periods in the office are well handled but the flashbacks (initiated by a female character credited as "The Onlooker") left me confused and frustrated. Have they died in the disaster? Are these the moments when their lives flashed in front of their eyes when they thought they were about to die? What does the obviously 'meaningful' removal of their ties actually mean? How is one character seemingly able to reject his vision?

But this conceit that hurts the play, also provides its most powerful moments. The flashback sequences are beautifully directed as we see each character regress while other cast members provide voices from the darkness for unseen characters. David Peel's portrayal of Adam as he re-experiences abuse from his childhood is traumatic to watch, while Emily Thornton's discussion with her parents about being pregnant is immensely moving. Back in the 'future', the whole cast deliver excellent performances with Stuart Davies a stand out as Bill who finds dealing with the calls particularly distressing.

The show makes its point forcefully about companies that make money out of the misery of others, but some of the religious discussion felt a little heavy handed. There are several nice nods to futuristic technology such as embedded chips and overhead drones but little discussion of their significance other than as convenient plot elements. There's also a sense of the show running out of steam and bringing things to a swift conclusion when I felt like I wanted a less rushed explanation of their company's role in events.

Nevertheless, this is an ambitious, stylish and clever show and is more than enough to make sure I add Paper Zoo to my list of companies to look out for in next year's Fringe progamme.

2020 Vision has now completed its run at Augustines
Image used with permission