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Best of The Fringe 2016: Review

Peace, Love & Solidarity
British Intervention 
Summerhall 
★★★★★

The past couple of months have been a queer time for those who care about a future, any future, that doesn’t see more power handed to Westminster. Leaving the EU still hasn't hit home as much as you’d think it would have, but those in power, those who were tasked with leading the charges for remain and leave, don’t care because the effect of leaving will never touch them. 

It will, and has, however, had an impact on the lives of the four men behind British Intervention, as well as countless millions of under-25s who now face a bleak future.

‘Peace, Love & Solidarity’ doesn’t hold back and its anger, bitter resentment, and frustration are justified within the first few minutes. As the performance starts, so does a digital clock, fixed in position on the wall that is counting down to zero from 60 minutes. There is a rawness to this piece that creates a very heavy and exhausting hour for the performers and audience alike. Within their logic, you would be hard pressed to find any real criticism. The result of being conned and failed so blatantly is written on their faces and etched in every word they speak.

They strip their play bare and, with confidence and maturity, produce a powerful, salient, and immediate piece of theatre that makes an impact. The set is simple but intricate, with the vastness of the space giving you this feeling of a 1970s style Central London squat where the company and friends would spend hours having this type of conversation and philosophy. Youths, socialists, and lefties would plan demos and strikes of solidarity with unions and workers, and solidarity would be forged.

Two flags, St George's and the Union Jack, are spread out on the floor with a third, the European Union flag, tied to the head of the mic stand. Midway through the performance, they stop, almost certainly to catch their breaths, but to explain that the next thing had been written with David Cameron in mind, but then Brexit happened. Throughout most of the play, my eyes kept coming back to the EU flag and this notion of what ‘Peace, Love & Solidarity’ are meant to mean.

As the clock continues to countdown, the four performers take over the space, blending spoken words, movement, sound, music, and visuals that grow urgent and uneasy. It seems chaotic but never fragmented or lazy, with each set piece pushing the boundaries but maintaining an intellectual saliency that usurps any real unease you might feel. Visuals, ranging from images, video, texts, and pictures, are constantly projected over the counting down clock, which always makes you aware of the time, adding to the sense of urgency.

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"Only by following this rule can you create theatre that has meaning, that has purpose, and that slaps you awake."

Part performance art and part physical theatre, ‘Peace, Love & Solidarity’ traverses a few theatre styles yet maintains its own original sense of self and purpose. Theatre at this level is a rare sight to see at the fringe, not least because it challenges you, your silence and acceptance, perhaps even your complicity with the establishment, and it does this because they are absolutely right in their premise.

There are few established theatre companies in the UK that could have achieved what British Intervention has with their play. Its boldness and originality create an unwavering commitment to their art and illustrate with sophistication the power of theatre and what can be achieved if you don’t hold back. Only by following this rule can you create theatre that has meaning, that has purpose, and that slaps you awake. 

Most theatres are eager and willing to sell out to pop names and popular plays by long-dead playwrights that stop innovation within the industry. They want to keep the audience as sheep, who blindly go into one generic show after another, happy and content in their docility. ‘Peace, Love & Solidarity’ wakes them up, boils their blood, and challenges them to realise just what sacrifices have been made, and for what?

The theatre landscape in the UK is bland at best, with only a handful of theatres willing to produce plays that challenge, threaten, and upset the establishment. And it is a strange Orwellian position to be in and is a question asked during ‘Peace, Love & Solidarity’ which is rather simple: "Do we have peace, love, and solidarity"?