When glancing through the list of theatre productions for this year's fringe, ‘Wrecked’ was one I had extremely high expectations of and was looking forward to. The idea of an audience of six, confined to a car suggested something tense and claustrophobic; but sadly in this case I was left completely cold, wondering why so many exciting creative opportunities had been missed through the devising process.
The premise is simple enough. A young woman wakes up at the wheel of a car with no idea what has happened, or even who she is, and has to piece together the events from what she finds around her. I'm not sure the creative process leading up to the opening of the piece, and the decision to opt for site-specific performance was sufficiently developed to convey a real sense of the impact of the story. Site-specific performance is not a new concept; warehouses, tower blocks, and underground tunnels are often transformed in order to create a unusual environment for innovative theatre so Fever Dream’s decision to push the boundaries of intimacy by inviting a small audience into such a small space needed to offer something new. Sadly it did not.
On arrival at the car, all smashed windows and crushed bonnet, an expectation was set; and on entering the space, it seemed the action would be delivered really creatively. There were several mirrors on the windscreen which I assumed would be used for the performer to deliver a few lines to audience members via the mirrors. This was an opportunity missed. Instead we remained invisible, watching the more insular parts of Sam’s (Kirsty Bruce) monologue in this way. The script contained a number of asides which could have been conveyed in a more abstract manner, resulting in a personal touch, but ultimately this part of the concept was confusing. I was never really sure if our presence was noticed by the character or if we were invisible observers as, at other times, we were addressed directly with the actress turning around in her seat.
The distinction of who the monologue is addressed to was crucial and, in the case of this piece, hindered its impact on the audience. This was a pity as Kirsty Bruce worked really hard to convey the turmoil her character was going through, and a 45 minute monologue in such a limited space is a huge challenge. At times her performance became somewhat ‘over the top’, the level needed adjusting from what would be appropriate on a stage, but was too much for this intimate ‘location’. The script itself was rather cliched, dissecting her childhood memories and obsessive relationship with overly romantic metaphors.
If you make a decision to commit to an unusual environment, surely you should maximise the creative opportunities it provides. There were fairy lights hung up around the rim of the roof of the car, which remained switched on throughout. I couldn't help but feel that in the moments when the performer moved into snapshots from her past, or when pre-recorded sound was used, the lights could have flickered or even gone out. If you're hanging lights and blacking out windows, why not use what you have to build tension and add atmosphere? Unfortunately on my visit, much of the pre-recorded dialogue, (there to help unpick the mystery) was too quiet to hear, making it difficult to piece together the mysterious circumstances of Sam’s situation.
I wouldn't go as far as to say ‘Wrecked’ was a car crash, but it does need a detailed MOT and some tinkering before taking to the road again.
Wrecked is showing in Assembly George Square Gardens until 29th August.