Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: (Toronto) Potosi (Fringe)

Not For The Faint of Heart
by Lisa McKeown
@lisammckeown 

When I walked into the packed theatre I had high hopes for what seemed to be a play that had gotten quite a lot of press, and an award: it's the winner of the Fringe Best New Play Contest.

And I'm sorry to say I was rather disappointed. Written by Alexander Offord, this play is about a young emissary sent to a remote country to investigate reports of sexual violence at the mine. While she's there, civil war breaks out and she is taken hostage by a former miner.

An interesting premise, and as Fringe shows go, well-written, directed, and acted - especially given the high intensity of the piece. Yet I felt a bit like I was watching a David Mamet play but without the sophistication and insight. The emissary is an aggressive young woman, determined to overcome the expectations of her gender, but when war breaks out at the end of the first act, and the tables turn, her situation gets more and more desperate as both men in the play seem to be grappling at her and abusing her. The take home message seems to be: you can act like a man, but you'll still get raped like a woman. News to people back in the 80s, perhaps, but not today. (Also, is no one doing trigger warnings any more?)

The tone of the show is also quite high pitched throughout, and I found it very difficult to watch and listen to during extended periods of time when the actors were all shouting. More variation in tone might help, although that might also involve some re-writes. Nevertheless, much of the audience gave them a standing ovation, so it might be well worth checking out if it sounds like it's your thing. 

July 2 - 13

6 comments:

  1. At what point was it considered common practice to include trigger warnings for theatre pieces? (Uninformed and curious)

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  2. It's an ongoing and highly volatile debate. ^glc

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  3. Oddly dismissive review. "It isn't my thing, but maybe you want to check it out if it's yours." If that's all the critic has to say about it, maybe we should just read the Fringe guide instead.

    Also, it's Offord.

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  4. I have to agree with Anonymous. 'Trigger warnings' are not exactly a common theatre practice, especially not common enough for a 'is no one doing trigger warnings anymore?' comment. The answer is that they didn't do them in the first place.

    Yes, there are content warnings in place, such have been a standard (but not universal) practice in theatre for a long time. In fact, these content warnings are on the Fringe website (in Potosi's case, "Warnings: Sexual Content, Graphic Violence, Mature Language") and also at the venue.

    As for whether trigger or even traditional content warnings 'should' be in place or not, there's plenty of debate on that issue (less so in theatre than on the internet or in academia at the moment). Though, with the multitudes of people just tossing out their thoughts and feelings on the issue, it's certainly worth looking at the actual studies on such things to see what the research shows (e.g. http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/hazards-ahead-problem-trigger-warnings-according-research-81946/).

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  5. I think we cannot avoid trigger warnings of some sort and, btw, we already do them (for strobe lights, gunfire and smoke). As creator and commentator and left-winger I am conflicted and have written about the phenomenon:

    http://www.charpo-canada.com/2014/03/after-dark-march-25-2014.html

    glc

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  6. Victims of sexual violence are not uniquely female, so you know. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/jul/17/the-rape-of-men

    I wonder if the comment about the "take home message" is unnecessarily blunt, though I admit I haven't seen the production.

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