Sunday 11 August 2013

Must try harder

Anoesis, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

We all recognise the language of school and exams. Phrases like ’[Name] is a well-mannered, focussed child’ and ‘Must try harder’ are familiar in some way to all of us, and it’s this shared language that Junction 25’s Anoesis Anoesis off. With a young company, it sends up the way our school system works. But Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore’s production never quite takes off, and lacks a central argument on which the various vignettes can be hung.

As we enter the Dissection Room in Summerhall, our names are taken for the ‘register’ and we are given a sticker with our name on. Seating is arranged down too long, tall tables on either side of the room, creating a traverse performance space in the middle. In front of us is a pen and an exam paper. Beside some of us are teenagers in school uniform.

After the register is taken, we begin with section A of the paper. Throughout the ‘exam’ (which has three sections), sketches break up proceedings. One girl talks about what she wants to be when she’s older. An audience member gets told how well he’s doing. The entire cast walk up and down the space to the sound of bass-laden music, falling over occasionally as they struggle to keep going in the everyday drama of school life.

All these ideas are strong, and there are some moments of tenderness and beauty, but they don’t quite come together. We can all agree that there’s lots wrong with the education system and that our school lives make us who we are, but Anoesis touches on these things without interrogating them. If you boil down the actual material on show, there’s not much there (a lot is repeated) and their intrigue doesn’t stretch far beyond the initial idea.

There’s a lot of energy and I genuinely liked the minimalist, stripped back aesthetic and use of microphones, but the lack of substance becomes a little irksome after a while and you can see the potential of the show struggling to get out. Anoesis clearly comes from a place of anger and emotion for Junction 25, but as it stands it needs to do a little bit more work in class if it’s to get good feedback at parents’ evening.

Company: Junction 25
Directors: Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore
Venue: Summerhall till 25 August 2013


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