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EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: NOTHING, Summerhall

EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: NOTHING, Summerhall

EDINBURGH 2017 - BWW Review: NOTHING, SummerhallAdapted by Pelle Koppel from the controversial young adult novel by Janne Teller, Nothing tells the story of a class of young people searching for the meaning of life.

On the first day of school, classmate Pierre-Anthon announces that life has no meaning and nothing at all matters. To persuade him otherwise, his peers give up personal treasures to a heap of meaning in an abandoned sawmill. As each child nominates what the next must sacrifice to disprove Pierre-Anthon's nihilistic taunts, the play takes a disturbing turn.

At first, Pierre-Anthon gets under their skin with his claims that strike at the heart of their beliefs. However, it is the insidious peer pressure amongst the class, seeking revenge at each other for enforcing personal sacrifices and demanding compliance, that takes the play to a much darker place.

Somewhere between The Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies, this production is not for the faint-hearted and there are wince-inducing moments, coupled with expectant horror of where the story will go next, that leave the audience with a growing sense of visceral unease.

Brought to Summerhall by Denmark's Teater V, the entire story is told by performers Mikkel Reenberg and Ane Helene Hovby, who narrate the tale and slip in and out of all of the characters of the class. The tradeMark Mannerisms of each of the teenagers are at first comic, showing us bitchy Gerda, tough Otto, musical John Johan, and lulling the audience into a false sense of security with light comedy.

The town of Taering and everything in it is conjured up by a series of wooden boxes that the actors move and rearrange to represent everything from a plum tree to a prayer mat. This works well for the play, neatly drawing parallels between the characters' search for meaning in objects of value to them and the projection of meaning by the audience onto the boxes.

The boxes are moved with unfailing precision by the two actors, who keep the pace and tension escalating throughout - a real achievement as they carry the 70-minute show with unbreakable focus.

Morning theatre may not be top of the list for Fringe goers who tend to enjoy late nights at this time of year, but it was quite pleasant to emerge into the sunshine of the Meadows, after a rather gruelling performance. In parts amusing, but in others downright disturbing, Nothing is a thought-provoking piece with accomplished, versatile performances and staging.

Nothing runs until August 27 (not 21 or 22) at 9.50am

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