Live review:

The EGDE @ Colston Hall

Serafina Lee

A highly immersive piece of promenade theatre created by over 100 young people from the Creative Youth Network, in partnership with RISE Youth Dance and Pocket Sessions Choir, The Edge is ambitiously innovative. The Edge is a fictional talent show, centred around the experience of Clodagh, a young country singer songwriter with a sweet folklore voice, as she progresses through the competition, becoming increasingly altered by the overt influences of the talent show. A plethora of technological elements were incorporated: live streaming on multiple TVs, an app through which the audience can vote for contestants, headphones, projections on walls and video introductions of contestants.

The audience were first asked to download The Edge app, which showcased each of the contestants along with a short bio, allowing us to take voting power into our own hands. We were led into the foyer of Colston Hall, the huge space itself used very effectively with diffused purple lighting and wall projections, replicating the grandeur of the entertainment industry. What I found particularly striking is the extent to which the fictionalisation was played out, initially quiet tech assistants who led the different audience groups throughout the show were actually also part of this fictional universe, asking us questions and ushering us along. We began even to suspect our fellow audience members of being secret actors. However, some elements did disrupt this potentially excellent fiction, as young dancers sat within the audience after performing, breaking role and talking amongst themselves. It would have been a lot more effective to direct them off-stage, or potentially more interesting to have them mingle amongst us whilst in role.

The use of Colston Hall itself was generally excellent, we were led in small groups to brilliantly staged scenes in different rooms, each representing a stage in the competition. The most striking (yet deeply uncomfortable for someone who usually avoids audience participation like the plague) was the dressing room scene. We were presented with an array of sights: a mannequin sporting a sparkly sequin bra, a clothes rail of lavish fur, a glamorously vain stylist wearing a black blazer, knee high boots and a belt chain. We were interrogated and forced to do vocal warm ups, one unfortunate person had to sit on the stylist’s chair as she applied a heavy streak of contour to give her face ‘definition’. We witnessed as Clodagh was forced to give up her comfortably baggy Bristolian attire for a crop top and velvet mustard trousers, exclaiming that she didn’t want to use sex appeal for her image-‘it just wasn’t her’. Such scenes sought to demonstrate the overt pressures of the industry to transform individuality into a conformist branded image for viewers. However, the dialogue at times was not incredibly nuanced, and perhaps could have adopted a little more of the ‘show, don’t tell’ attitude, crediting the audience with the imaginative capability of reaching their own conclusions.

The final talent show in the second act was impressive, the contestants had a range of skills. Clodagh’s vocals were powerful, she was utterly uncomfortably transformed, wearing a sparkly dress and singing ‘I Put a Spell on You’. She looked visibly pained, clearly the process had resulted in her disillusionment. Worth mentioning is the spoken word poetry of Ava, a young, previously homeless woman. Her stage presence and delivery was passionate, performing a poem about the struggles of mental health which the judges clearly utterly misinterpreted. However, I felt as if the show would have had the grandeur it needed if they used the actual concert hall for this final act instead of the small stage in the foyer, which wasn’t incredibly catered to the audience. I believe the reasoning was due to to the live screening on the TVs, but it would have really enhanced the fiction if the final act had an increased dramatic production.

Despite some minor flaws in execution, the overwhelming merit of the show was the strong concept that backed it, the innovative use of space and the experiential interactive elements. You do not simply view The Edge, you become a member of its fictional universe, reevaluating what ‘entertainment’ truly is. It was certainly a unique theatrical experience put on by a fantastic organisation; it is wonderful to see such a large scale production created by so many talented young people.

Photo courtesy of Creative Youth Network.

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© Helicon Magazine 2019

University of Bristol