SixOfOne, Old New Borrowed Blue / Mitchell + Manton, The Island of First Loves

Review in Issue 15-3 | Autumn 2003

Two examples of what is sometimes called ‘reminiscence theatre’: shows that use real-life biography that is moulded into a devised theatre piece. Both on the theme of love and romance – one presented in a conventional performance space and one in a lift…

Last year the 5065 Lift was part of the Aurora Nova festival of international theatre, but this year lives in Pleasance Courtyard where it houses performances and film presented by a plethora of companies on the hour from 1.00-9.00 pm. I was searching for a multi-media performance by a film-maker friend called Matt Hulse which I failed completely to get to – that’s the Fringe for you – but I did get to see Sixofone’s devised piece Old New Borrowed Blue. With the help of esteemed director John Wright, the company have taken a number of stories told to the company at an earlier date by ‘real people’, which have been integrated into one complete narrative – the horribly funny and sad romantic connections between a group of people drawn together for a wedding. The bolshy bride, the beery groom, the bride’s best pal who’s carrying a torch for her friend, the stripper who turns out to be an ex and the posh cousin Annabel who dishes out the Lambrusco are a wonderful team who bring the stories to life – the perfectly obvious device of the audience as wedding guests one of those simple ideas that works brilliantly. This is the sort of show that sums up Edinburgh in August – quirky venue, kooky cast and a show that puts a smile on your face. And free wine too!

The Island of First Loves is rather more whimsical and reflective. The company have eschewed face-to-face interviews and instead use a website questionnaire to gain the information on real-life first loves which is used as the material for the show – with an additional element being that the audience has the option of filling in the same questionnaire when they arrive. It’s a great idea, and raises interesting thoughts and questions about memory, identity and obsession on the path from childhood to adulthood (and the role that sites like Friends Reunited are playing in all this), but it felt like the starting point for a show rather than a finished product. I can understand the company’s desire to present the material in an unusual way – thus the mix of confession, lecture-style presentation of facts with theatrical exploring of ideas raised – but it’s a ploy that has been adopted once too often by physical theatre companies over the past ten years (Improbable, Bouge-de-la and Nigel Charnock all spring to mind) and I was hankering for a deeper and fuller theatrical development of the ‘real-life’ material. The sections of the piece that take this leap into real artistic and emotional engagement rather than polemical reflection are the ones that work best for me.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Aug 2003

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-3
p. 23