Reviews Edinburgh Published 18 August 2013

Specie

Pleasance Dome ⋄ 31st July-26th August 2013

Identity and choice.

Catherine Love

What if switching sex was as easy as slipping on a new pair of shoes? It’s a striking premise on which to hang a show, and Fat Git Theatre’s intriguing new piece opens with tantalising potential. The world they quickly establish is one in the unspecified near future, in which medical advances have put humans in complete control of their biological identity – “we’re our own gods now”, as one character puts it. Anyone with money is opting to undergo the euphemistically named “change”, switching from man to woman or vice versa at the slightest whim. But as with any controversial scientific development, it comes riddled with ethical questions.

The “new people”, as those who have undergone the procedure become known, may seemingly have conquered the fate foisted on them by birth, but ultimate choice can equally seem like no choice at all. If decisions can be reversed, then how can they have any meaning? Fat Git also reflect on the possibility that once gender is a genuine choice, its politics might become even more fraught. As a couple debate about whether to transform their daughter into a son to improve her chances in life, a whole sickening, slippery slope of possibilities presents itself. But there are also glaring omissions, such as the socio-economic dimension of a procedure that offers choice and power only to the wealthy.

Rather than dissecting the wider social impact of this opening premise, Fat Git choose to explore the psychological impact of “change” on one particular character, for whom choice never entered the equation. Through a close focus on this figure and those around him, the company deftly draw in ideas about identity, choice, control and the desire for a higher meaning. The danger of becoming our own gods, they suggest, is that there will then be nothing left to believe in. As the piece goes on, faith becomes an increasingly dominant theme, though it is tackled with a sophistication that goes beyond the familiar “playing God” argument – even if it never quite untangles the knot that it ties for itself.

While the opening minutes strike a bold chord, this becomes a struggle to sustain for the length of the piece. As scenes get longer and more loaded with words, the initial driving momentum stutters. The structure could do with a little more development, as could an aesthetic which is intriguing but not fully formed. Between scenes, performers cast flirtatious glances at the audience while using movement as a vehicle to transport them to the next plot destination, breaking out of their fictional world with an appealing playfulness that is lacking elsewhere. Given the precision of their physical work seen briefly here and to brilliant effect in their previous show Uninvited, it seems a shame that it is not more effectively incorporated into this piece. It remains, however, a promising piece from an exciting company, asking fascinating questions even if the answers still need work.

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Catherine Love

Catherine is a freelance arts journalist and theatre critic. She writes regularly for titles including The Guardian, The Stage and WhatsOnStage. She is also currently an AHRC funded PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London, pursuing research into the relationship between text and performance in 21st century British theatre.

Specie Show Info


Produced by Fat Git Theatre

Written by Joe White

Link http://www.pleasance.co.uk/

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