The work of Neil LaBute has spanned over twenty years, and at this year's Edinburgh Fringe, we see the UK debut of his first play, Filthy Talk for Troubled Times (1989).
The play was directed by Matthew Lillard (Scream) and is a piece of work brought to us by Phantom Owl Productions, who have also brought five other pieces to this years festival. Their residence for the Fringe is at Basic Mountain on Hill Street (only a short walk from Princes Street).
LaBute has always been famed for his specific writing style. The themes in his plays often explore the darker sides of humanity/gender construction and Filthy Talk for Troubled Times is no exception.
The story takes places in a seedy bar in Anytown, USA as everyman and everywoman exchange their thoughts and feelings (sadness, disgust, and hope) springing from relationships they are in or would like to be in.
At this point it is safe to say that this play is not for all – the language and content are extremely hard-hitting and not for the faint of heart. The themes explored by LaBute are those that we have seen before but are also very clearly from a different time (not that 1989 was that long ago).
The play deliberately pushes as many buttons as possible. However, it was pleasantly surprising that despite the text and its dated feel, the cast managed to punch it up and give it contemporary relevance.
Much credit is due to the sheer wonder of Lillard’s direction, which was at times hypnotizing to the point of feeling like you were completely immersed in the story as it unfolded before your eyes.
The use of the space was incredible. From the moment you enter, you are placed right in the center of the bar as a woman loops on a pole in front of you. It’s refreshing to be in such a close and intimate space with a cast of actors who know exactly what they are doing and what they want to achieve. The synchronicity was flawless and everyone on stage commanded the room when needed. It was beautiful to watch.
Fans of LaBute’s work are in for a treat with this piece as it most definitely began the scaffolding for his later work and it is thought-provoking to revisit earlier work in later times. This is despite some of the themes not holding as strong a place in the world today as they did when it was written.
The cast and direction of this piece are most definitely the strongest points, to the point of being flawless in all aspects of their delivery. This was a powerful piece of theatre, created by a team who have a clear love and care in what they do.
August 16th - 31st (Not 18th, 25th, 27th) Times and ticket prices vary - check website for details. Guideline 18+ strong adult themes.