City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Big Mouth Review


By NevilleRigby - Posted on 24 August 2012

5
Show details
Venue: 
Summerhall
Company: 
SKaGeN
Running time: 
85mins
Production: 
Jeroen Wuyts (light and sound design), Barbara De Laere (costume), Inge Lauwers (production management), SKaGeN co-production with STUK & De Tijd
Performers: 
Valentijn Dhaenens

No review can do justice to this spectacular, nay unique piece of theatre. Valentijn Dhaenens, one of those Belgians who seems to speak every language under the sun quite fluently, lures the unsuspecting audience with a musical prelude to what is a magnificent tapestry of sound bites from history.

His one-man bravura performance isn't simply a testimony to his linguistic and dramatic versatility, but to a remarkable research effort to identify extracts from important and forgotten oratory that sum up key moments, reflect turning points in history, or sharply contrast good and evil.

Dhaenens shuffles around a row of microphones, his voice and face changing in an instant as he switches characters. A long list of names chalked on a blackboard is projected behind him, each one rubbed out as he works his way though 2,500 years of speechifying. The Apologia of Socrates is delivered as an almost tear-jerking testimony, Goebbels' rousing appeal to Nazi patriotism is sotto voce contrasting with US General Patten's vituperative D Day call to arms to GIs.

With sound tricks and song to break up the continuum of history, we're led on an accelerating arc through the 20th century to the present day with the words of JFK, Martin Luther King, Reagan, Bush, a snippet of Clinton or a moment of Monroe. Even Osama bin Laden is made to sound almost reasonable in explaining his Jihad against the United States, against Dubya's drivel.

Some figures chosen are perhaps memory joggers for some in the audience. Anarchist Nicola Sacco's final denial at the end of a seven-year prosecution (or was it persecution Assange-style?) in 1920s USA, Louis Farrakhan's anti-semitic rhetoric, Malcolm X, even the bizarre outpourings of American conservative Ann Coulter turn out to be briefly thought-provoking.

 

While some may find it quite a long piece for the Fringe, it repays careful attention - an actor's tour de force and a quizzical lesson in the power of words.

Show Times: until 26th Aug at 12 noon.

Tickets: £10 (£8)