The Abode

Davey Anderson
Pepperdine Scotland
Underbelly, Cowgate
to

At the 2017 Festival Fringe, a group of performers held a vigil on the Royal Mile in sympathy with Heather Heyer who was killed on 12 August as she protested against a march of the far right in Charlottesville, America.

This year, Pepperdine Scotland perform a disturbing fictional account of one young American’s drift into the orbit of the far right.

Samuel (Nate Bartoshuk) in his early twenties is lonely and socially awkward. He misses his father who died years before, and was part of a lost, more certain world where his father worked in the now closed Kodak factory.

Even his own job at the reception of a low budget hotel has suffered the dehumanising effects of new technology as it is replaced by machines which he simply has to monitor.

Tempted into a meeting about "How Feminism is Killing America" and listening to the charismatic Ricky (Noah Archibald) he finds a meaning, an identity among the 'straight' white men, activists of "The Abode" who claim America needs to stop the threat from migrants, Muslims, Jews, non-whites, gays and especially feminists.

Inevitably, this brings him into conflict with his politically liberal sister Wendy (Jacquelyn Ferguson) who moderates material posted on Freedom wall.

She finds it easy to take down from the wall attacks on Jewish people and feminism but is unsure about the following statement: "The Color of Crime. Why we must secure the border and build the wall to make America safe again. Guest speakers to be announced..."

She wonders if there is an issue of free speech. The audience is asked to vote on that one.

This fast-paced, engaging performance uses its large cast as a modern chorus of voices, urging Samuel into certain responses, or commenting on the action like a vocal version of Twitter.

The play shifts easily from an unsettling naturalism into moments of dramatic myth that emphasises the illusionary nature of the far right’s identity politics.

As Wendy, with the help of a friend Anita (Audrey McKee), tries to get Samuel away from the “The Abode”, she is pulled alongside a left group organising against the right. But she is horrified to find many of them are arguing for a physical force solution. “Punch a Nazi” is a popular slogan she dislikes.

The show is warily optimistic about the future. Communities can be restored; peaceful arguments can win people away from dangerous ideas.

If they are wrong then be sure the lethal intolerance of the far right is mobilising to fill the vacuum.

Keith Mckenna