Interpret the World Around Us in Narrative: A Guide to Theatre at Assembly by Greenwich Theatre

7 August 2017

This year I am delighted to be directing two dramas at Assembly Festival this Fringe – Gazing at a Distant Star and Under My Thumb. The first is by turns heart-breaking and uplifting, a full length theatre debut by writer Sian Rowland about people who go missing and the struggle for those left behind. The second is a hard-hitting political thriller played by an all-female cast, set in a world where women are imprisoned for speaking out against inequality, written by exciting young writer Cassiah Joski-Jethi. At first glance, the two shows could not be more different. However, for me, the thing that unites them is the fierce honesty of the writing. 

There are many, many shows at the Fringe that have that kind of integrity, that urgency about the story telling. 

In Chris Woodley’s The Soft Subject, another Greenwich supported show, the writer and performer tells his own autobiographical story of love and heartbreak, with a healthy dose of pop music. Lucy Burke’s Glitter Punch, at least on the surface, is the story of two teenagers finding love and solace in one another, but has a darker heart and forces the audience to question laws of consent and definitions of adulthood. Another biographical tale, Mental was created by mother and son Kim and Kane Power and tells the story of one family’s experience of living with mental illness. Half Breed, brought to the Fringe by Soho Theatre and Talawa, and written and performed by Natasha Marshall, tells the story of a mixed race teenager in a whiter than white village, struggling to find her voice. 

Metta Theatre, under director Poppy Burton-Morgan, have brought an intriguing pair of shows about internet addiction to Assembly this year. The perfectly titled Pixel Dust by Clare Bayley sees Daniella swinging from meme to meme, a tarzan of the datafields. Online she needs no one and no one needs her but offline she is struggling to find her place in a new school and a new town. WONDR is a one-hour spoken word odyssey about social media phenomenon and struggling mum Faith Allgood (and Faith has a real world twitter account too - @WondrWomanUK). 

Metta’s two shows are presented at Assembly as part of FuturePlay, a programming strand that celebrates, explores and showcases cutting-edge creative content and ideas at the intersection of art and technology. Another FuturePlay highlight has to be Eleanor Bishop’s Jane Doe, a participatory theatre show reflecting on rape culture in our communities in which one performer leads a public reading of a rape trial transcript, with audience members reading as witnesses and lawyers, and feeding in live responses via their phones. 

For me, theatre is the realm of the storyteller. I love music, cabaret and comedy, but the need to tell stories, to interpret the world around us in narrative, to endorse or challenge, celebrate or condemn the things we see in society every day finds its best outlet in live theatre – and the Fringe is surely the most vital place, in all senses of the word, to be a part of that storytelling.

Words by James Haddrell

Under My Thumb joins Assembly Festival at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 3-20 August 2017 at 16:10 @ Assembly Roxy - Snug Bar. See more of Under My Thumb here!

Gazing at a Distant Start joins Assembly Festival at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 3-28 August 2017 at 12:15 @ Assembly George Square Studios - Five. See more of Gazing at a Distant Star here!