Writer: Joe W
Director: Malaika Cunningham
Reviewer: Andrea Allen
Lucien wakes on a small island with a gaping head wound and no recollection of who he is. Accompanied by an anonymous ‘fan’, he slowly pieces his life together, and it becomes increasingly clear that his head trauma may well be not all that it seems. Captivating visuals and a sparse set appear to mimic the hallucinogenic wanderings of a damaged, unconscious mind. As Lucien’s political career is revealed, writer Joe W’s On the Outskirts of a Large Event appears to be a depiction of the hellish purgatory that could await certain British politicians following their downfall.
It becomes clear that the island is a metaphor for the UK, with natives being ‘sleepwalkers’ and the outsiders ‘insomniacs’. The latter are demonised for their otherness by a young, captivating politician who is revealed to be our injured protagonist. The insomniacs’ fate is sealed by a group of ‘captors’ thriving under Lucien’s scapegoating bigotry, and they are forcibly banished where their screams go unheard by the sleeping, passive majority. It is only when the damage is revealed as irreparable in the loom of an unstoppable iceberg that Lucien realises the damage of his empty words, made largely for status, wealth and notoriety as a celebrity figure.
It’s a powerful parallel, but The Bare Project stumble in trying to cram so much into a mere 60 minutes. Is On the Outskirts of a Large Event a venture into the recesses of an irreparably damaged brain or is it a scathing comment on British attitudes to immigration in the 21st century. A warning of the consequences of mass adherence to a dubiously charismatic figurehead. The answer seems to be both, and while visuals and staging are without fault, the content of this dense two-hander is too much to wolf down in a mere hour.
Runs until 24 February 2018 | Image: Joanna Higson