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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Friday, April 25, 2014

Theatre review: The Forbidden Experiment

Published in the Guardian
Enormous Yes at the Arches, Glasgow
Three stars

INCHKEITH is an island in the Firth of Forth, a short distance north of Edinburgh. For a small place, it's had a colourful history. According to the 16th-century historian Robert Lindsay of Pitscottie, Scotland's King James IV used it to conduct an experiment into the origins of language by sending a mute woman and two infants to live there in isolation, hoping they would develop a pre-Tower of Babel speech. It was subsequently turned into a colony for sufferers of plague and syphilis, and in later years it was the site of undercover military operations.
All this, in the hands of young Glasgow company Enormous Yes, winners of this year's Arches Platform 18 award, makes Inchkeith a repository of society's neuroses, hang-ups and embarrassing secrets. It's a latter-day Pandora's box, housing all the world's ills and going further by purging them, too. Here, writer/performer Michael John O'Neill cleanses his guilty conscience after behaving appallingly at a party and, here, a couple of US marines seem to absorb the moral horror of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.
The production is directed by Rob Jones (who also appears on stage), with expressive dance by Zosia Jo and live music by Matt Regan, who melds end-of-the-pier organ with BBC Radiophonic Workshop blips and bleeps and occasional Americana guitar. What starts as a jokey Peepolykus-style mixture of incompetence and inter-company spats builds through a collage of monologue, video projection and animation into a more serious study of transgression and redemption.
The material, by their own tongue-in-cheek admission, is "qualitative not quantitative", but its real problem is that it's not fully integrated into a coherent whole. It's less than the sum of its interesting parts. An enormous yes for a bright and imaginative company and a cautious yes for the show.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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