Pardon / In Cuffs

Valentijn Dhaenens

SKaGeN

Traverse Theatre

From 06 August 2015 to 30 August 2015

Rating: ****

Review by Philip Fisher

Belgium has been a source of some of the most interesting, challenging and baffling work on the Edinburgh Fringe in recent years. This latest offering from SKaGeN might well qualify under each of those three adjectives.

On its simplest, surface level, this is a piece inspired by a series of documentaries from Magnum photographer Raymond Depardon, focusing on interrogations between judges and a succession of petty criminals.

The latter comprise everything from a shoplifter to a stabber, a prostitute to a con man. Each has his or her reasons for committing crimes and most will end up in prison some time, even if they escape in the current circumstances.

For many playwrights and directors, this would be a good enough basis for a 75-minute presentation. For this company, further experimentation is always the order of the day.

To start with, three versatile actors happily swap around between legal officers and criminals, often in seconds. They even share roles on occasion, seemingly just for fun. In addition, some of the text is broken or repeats.

The messages that come across might be intended to convey one or more overarching themes.

It could be that many people end up in gaol who really don’t need to be there or, contrarily, that too many are let off by lenient prosecutors.

Possibly we are to conclude that there is far too much criminality going on at present.

There may also be a number of other explanations. Whichever view one takes, this is an unusual but always intriguing way to spend some quality Edinburgh time.