Fecund Theatre, Fascinations from the Crowd

Review in Issue 10-3 | Autumn 1998

Fascinations from the Crowd is a fragmented response to its author John Keates’ experience of contemporary urban existence. Presented as a collection of observational sketches, and populated by a disjointed community of recognisable but predictable characters, the piece explores the beauties and horrors of life in the big city.

As with earlier work, fecund (lower case like k.d. lang) is here concerned to integrate multimedia technologies into live performance. But this use of video is entirely unenhancing and unnecessary. It seems to have become a redundant trademark, rather than an organic part of the work. But this is by no means the piece’s deepest flaw. Choosing an episodic, non-linear format, demands that the charisma and humanity of both the performers and the characters engage the audience where narrative does not. Despite valiant and energetic performances from the whole cast, and a quite beautiful and profoundly moving performance by Amanda Lawrence, the characterisations are heavy handed and too easily comic, with little evidence of real empathy or understanding of the characters’ lives. Keates is clearly fascinated by the dark underbelly of urban life, and I wonder who is really speaking when it’s stated that it is ‘the artist’s art to reflect the suffering he [sic] sees in life”.

This is not to suggest that the show should have become a spectacle of suffering, or that humour is not a deep part of pain; but to simplify the complexities of real people’s lives, almost to the point of parody, is frankly insulting. This is a fascinating, but deeply disappointing piece of work.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 1998

This article in the magazine

Issue 10-3
p. 22