Review: Hear. Speak. See. (Edinburgh Fringe, online)

This absurdist drama from Expial Atrocious gives you, the audience member, a central role at the dinner table as guest of honour in Hear. Speak. See, now streaming at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Unsettling from the very first shot, in pitch black with sinister narration, it is clear that this will be, to quote The Rocky Horror Show, “no picnic”.

Your three dinner companions (Nic Lawton, EZ Holland, and Faye Bingham) are attentive yet distant. The action unfolds from your point of view, sometimes insharp focus, sometimes out of focus, sometimes speeded up.

Hear. Speak. See. is inspired in part by the old phrase on hearing, speaking and seeing no evil. As this show takes a twisted turn from the first course served, questions raise their head and hover, unanswered, while the tension far exceeds any sense of social anxiety or impropriety.

The characters complement each other: Bingham’s simmering quietness, Lawton’s faux compassion, Holland’s explosive outbursts. Who ‘you’ are remains unspoken – what you may have done, and why you are at the party.

Filmed from unusual angles and in startling style, this play is highly experimental, and as such, remains roughly compelling as the meal progresses.

There is just one moment of movement from you, the guest, that one moment where you could control the narrative, but it is brief. It may have been interesting to build further on this.

This play is unsettling, and the moments of inconsequential chatter which segue into threatening silences are well-written and portrayed.

Hear. Speak. See. plays with the conventions of both theatre and film, as well as whether it is ever right to take matters into our own hands.

Fringe rating: *** (and a half)

You can stream Hear. Speak. See. until 30 August on the Fringe Player: book your tickets here.

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