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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2007

  Mile End
Pleasance, Edinburgh

Jo Caird
posted 28 August 2007

Directing team Liam Jarvis and Hannah Barker combine flawless lighting and sound design, highly original physical theatre techniques and a simple yet deeply affecting plot to create a piece of work that will leave audiences shell-shocked long after they leave the theatre.

Mile End is inspired by the story of a man from East London who sought to get himself sectioned under the Mental Health Act, was deemed by psychiatrists not sufficiently ill to be detained, and subsequently killed a man by pushing him into the path of an underground train.

Michael (played by Jarvis) shows neurotic and paranoid tendencies, but seems basically rational, at the mercy of events outside of his control. Black-suited figures, visible to the audience, invisible to Michael, are the physical manifestation of his psychosis. They manipulate objects around him, push him to and fro and make him believe he is seeing things that he is not. By illustrating madness in this way the production asks questions about culpability, fate and personal freedom.

Side by side with Michael’s story runs that of Kate (Barker) and Alex (Sam Taylor), a couple who are running out of patience with each other and their relationship. The tension between them is palpable, so much so that the pair is uncomfortable to watch. They too are accompanied by the black-suited figures, not working mischief this time, but creating a living set; controlling the design elements of each scene.

These two stories play sometimes alternately, with beginnings and endings of scenes echoing each other; sometimes simultaneously, all three characters interacting in the space in independent scenes. This technique is risky but the company pulls it off spectacularly and by doing so, highlights links between the characters and stories that enrich the drama as a whole.


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