Teatr Biuro Podrozy
Pleasance at EICC
Twenty-three years ago, Polish theatre company Teatro Biuro Podrozy created the performance piece Carmen Funebre, a grim and sombre look at the victims of the Bosnian War.
The play has returned to the Fringe this year, along with a timely sequel, Silence. Regular patrons of the Festival Fringe may have encountered the company in more recent years with their loud and flame-filled adaptations of Macbeth and Planet Lem, a science fiction piece inspired by the writings of Stanislaw Lem. The staples of their Fringe show work invariably include a paucity of dialogue, feats of pyrotechnics, motor vehicles and a wide open stage under the Edinburgh stars.
In Silence, the events open with a bang, and I would give warning that the beginning of the play actually did include a near eardrum splitting crescendo which was moderately unpleasant. However the shock of this was followed by a visceral image of death uncovering the remains of bombed-out bus, which serves as the centrepiece of the production, from which the survivors rise, collect their children and, in a series of scenes of movement, dance and stunts, portray a horrific meditation on the difficulties facing the survivors of terrible conflict.
Between beatings, executions, assaults and starvation, there are however moments of snatched humanity, such as children being taught in school, music being played with gusto and games being played, all of which is tinged with a bitter sadness, and the looming presence of towering barbarians with wheels of fire and snarling vindictive soldiers, who hurt even as they hand out aid.
It's a powerful piece of theatre, although at times repetitious, which may indeed be the point, but does become wearying after a while. However when the final moments come, the callous bleakness of the universality of the play's message cannot be misunderstood: that, more than twenty years later, the plight of displaced people and fleeing refugees has not changed and neither has the disregard with which we treat them.