Fourth Monkey's Genesis and Revelations: Ascension Part 1

Fourth Monkey

theSpace on Niddry Street

From 05 August 2016 to 26 August 2016

Rating: ****

Review by Graeme Strachan

Retelling the books of Genesis and Revelation onstage in a mere few hours is an ambitious project, yet the nearly 30-strong company of Fourth Monkey have made this their goal.

Along with the other three biblically-themed shows the troupe brings to the 2016 Fringe, this late night show is a theatrical epic, split across two performances on alternating nights.

The stage is a bleak and morbid refuse-strewn expanse, with a backdrop draped in what looks like human skin. On the ground lies John, dressed in a hospital gown, awoken by four backpackers, who mutter amongst each other and then blind him before continuing on their journey, followed by a swarm of gas mask wearing denizens.

John sets out to record what occurs, learning to see beyond his vision and encountering myriad figures: from the four horsemen, to Jezebel, to an anthropomorphised, bloodied lamb, breaking the seals on a scroll.

As I said, it's an ambitious production, one with massive scope and realised in fantastic form, with a huge cast. The dreamlike quality of the production's design, the heavy hospital imagery and the dialogue also lend credence to the idea that this apocalyptic vision may well be that of a man in the midst of a morphine dream rather than witnessing a true form of armageddon.

The cast uniformly manage to support the material, with nary a bum note amidst them. In fact, the only downside to the piece is that the staging is on ground level rather than on a dais and as a result of the lack of tiered seating combined with the heavy amount of crouching and groundwork in the play that only the front rows can actually see some of the action. This lead to much craning of necks and head-bobbing amongst the rear rows, and I doubt those at the back could see much of anything at all.

However, the sheer spectacle of the piece is masterful, as is the decision to forgo taking bows at the end; instead, the troupe littering the hallways towards the exit in pained contortion only fuelled the sense that you'd witnessed something spectacular and unique.