top of page

76th Edinburgh Fringe: REVIEW

"Rarely do we challenge male aggression and tend to pass it off for someone else to handle, or we tend to think there are other reasons why the altercation is taking place, so it is best to stay out of it."

Prickly Pear Productions
Prickly Pear Walking Home (24).jpg

It’s a new day in the office, but not everyone has turned up for the morning meeting, and the culture reviewer, Alex, who arrived late, is acting fidgety but has coffee for everyone except Zoe, who prefers chocolate. Tension begins to rise as an email from HR causes panic among the colleagues, and repeated attempts to reach Carla fail, leading to crossed wires, accusations, and guilt amongst the colleagues. 


After the first five minutes of Walking Home, you begin to hear the heavy breathing from the audience. You cannot help but feel angry, frustrated, and annoyed as Sean Borg, Michela Farrugia, Alex Weenink, and Zoë Alba Farrugia unpack a complex, powerful narrative that you know is going to stay with you long after you leave the theatre.


Walking Home is a brave, honest, and at times emotionally disturbing drama that draws from over 40 real, lived experiences to faithfully bring this salient story to the stage. One of the strengths of the piece is the way each of the characters has their own moment to unpack their story and their experiences. Farrugia, angry by what has happened and potentially frustrated by the lack of information, retreats to the "red room" as a way of controlling, or being forced to control, her anger.


And Borg’s early experiences of abuse and how, even at a young age, he wishes he had done and said more to help. For Borg, there is a deep guilt in seeing and knowing that something was wrong, but now that he is older and more reflective, he feels as though there is more that could be done. The idea of seeing and knowing something is wrong but not doing anything about it is steeped in the fabric of our society. Rarely do we challenge male aggression and tend to pass it off for someone else to handle, or we tend to think there are ‘other’ reasons why the altercation is taking place, so it is best to stay out of it. This was powerfully captured in 2013 when Charles Saatchi was photographed with his hand around the neck of Nigella Lawson outside a London restaurant. The outrage was justifiable, and the photograph was taken in an upmarket restaurant in the early afternoon. Not a single person stepped in to challenge Saatchi. Even after the attack, very little was done, and great debates happened in which there were 50/50 discussions with some people not wanting to side with either party.


As Borg talks, I am reminded of this question: it was a significant public attack by one public figure on another public figure. These are people we know, people we have welcomed into our home via television, news, and culture shows; they’re not strangers; these are people we would, on any other occasion, approach. Yet the moment this attack happened, these very public people became normal members of the citizenry; their picture might have gone ‘viral’, but the act of a husband attacking his wife would go unchecked by the other patrons of the restaurant, the staff, and passersby. As Borg tells this story, the company doesn’t meet his eyes; they avoid him and move around the table. They do everything they can to avoid looking at him as he shares this powerful and heartbreaking story.

Weenink unexpectedly asks the question about the very real pressures faced by men who are forced or obligated to conform to these stereotypes. Rarely is this part of the conversation discussed: the pressure that is put upon men to be men and to follow a path that has been carved out for them. Though there are great examples of men standing up to the stereotypes that they face, all too often this is passed over, and it becomes harder to have that conversation.

Weenink’s story reminded me of something that happened last month when comedian Romesh Ranganathan did a bit about calling out misogyny within your male friends circle. The fact that in 2023 this is still a conversation that is being had and men and young boys still need to be educated about not objectifying women is incredibly disheartening. The backlash that Ranganathan received was predictable but also highlighted the peer pressure men are under. This in no way excuses the actions, but it does offer insight into the delicate balance men find themselves in. A simple act of challenging your mate to not say or do anything misogynistic or objectifying underpins the wider issues we face when challenging abusive behaviour in public, at work, or at home.


By utilising the break in the fourth wall, the company allows themselves the opportunity to genuinely connect with the audience, our lived experiences, and our understanding of the subject. One of the first questions we’re asked is about the connection we may have to someone who has been sexually assaulted, and we are encouraged to look around the room. It is a simple question to have been asked, and looking around the room, one finds everyone's hand is up. This is a moment that hurts, shocks, and shakes you to the core. It is telling in our society that so many people are directly or indirectly connected to a rape or abuse victim, yet so little is done to address the causes, ensure that there are greater provisions and support available, and ensure that there is education and awareness around the subject.

At the beginning of Walking Home, the company shines a light on the feet of Michela Farrugia as she mimics walking in the dark. This becomes one of the most salient breaks in the production that the company comes back to several times. Michela Farrugia's monologue as she recounts the brutal experiences of her character is soul-destroying, and once again, simple and engaging audience participation is used to brilliant effect in this moment. As Michela explains what happened to her and the fear and shock that were compounded by the fact that people didn’t do anything and didn’t intervene until 5 minutes into the attack, there is such truth in Michela’s delivery that you couldn’t help but get angry.

Michela and Zoë are the ones who take it upon themselves to check in on Carla, offering her some company and some food if she wants it. I never felt that Alex and Sean needed to offer to join their female colleagues in going to check in on Carla; I feel that, like most of this production, this was the right choice for them at this time. Their presence, whether as colleagues or not, could have had a triggering effect on Carla so soon after being attacked.


In writing this, a painting by Berthold Woltze called "The Irritating Gentleman" (1890) came up on my Instagram feed. It’s rather apt, and it made me think of Christopher Chope MP, who was the lone UK politician to block progress of an Upskirting Bill in 2018. Progress, it seems, is intentionally slow and aimed at giving little hope that solutions can be agreed upon. There is a perceived privilege that some men think they have, and there is nothing that can be done to challenge or change that. When men challenge men’s attitudes towards women, as Ranganathan did, the backlash becomes an attack on the man doing the challenging and not on the actions of men being abusive or misogynistic. Walking home should be the easiest thing to do, but fear is etched into this most basic of life experiences.


The kidnap and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan Police officer should have been a watershed moment for victims rights and for changing attitudes towards rape and sexual abuse aimed at women, but it hasn’t. There has since been a deluge of other complaints about the number of police and police support staff being accused of violent crimes. This is a British culture of sex crimes against women, yet it wasn’t. In fact, over 1,500 police officers and police support staff have been accused of violent offences. Throughout Walking Home, I found myself breathing heavily at parts, angry at the stories and experiences that should never have happened. The news seems unending with assaults and little repercussions for those who have perpetrated them, and there is little discussion being had about the very real fear women face of having to go to the police. The broken system has failed victims in ways that are unimaginable, yet we have to do more, we have to say more, and we have to come together to make sure that there is change.


Prickly Pear Productions has already had a tremendously successful run with Walking Home during its European Tour, and the reaction it’s gotten for its UK premiere at Edinburgh has been incredible. Devising a show like this can’t have been easy, for cast or audience, but with a fierce, delicate, and sympathetic approach to these narratives, the company has created an important, effective, and deeply moving show that is also a deafening rallying cry to action.

"Michela Farrugia's monologue as she recounts the brutal experiences of her character is soul-destroying, and once again, simple and engaging audience participation is used to brilliant effect in this moment."

bottom of page