During the Edinburgh Festival 'The Flood' was performed in an underground cellar at Summerhall (Venue 26). There were 2 shows a day and each performance lasted approx 55mins. Although in Edinburgh the piece was staged in a site-specific setting it is adaptable and can be staged in both site-specific and traditional theatrical settings
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THE STAGE ****
A First World War officer leads his men into battle, symbolically throwing bits of raw meat at a wall. A nurse gathers them up and performs triage, discarding the ?dead? and returning the others as fit for duty. This scene, repeated a dozen times in the course of the play, is a powerful metaphor for the insanity and human cost of war, and plays movingly against another repeated trope, a woman back home describing a recurring dream of Death, whom she fights off with the power of will and love, keeping her beloved alive one more day.
Badac, a company known for addressing hard subjects through unrelenting, even cruel attacks on the audience, are relatively mild here, relying on the psychological power of the repetition of these two painful images and the growing sense of despair and doom they generate to produce its effect. A script built on the stammering fragments and repetitions of high passion contributes to the play?s power, and producer/director/writer/actor Steve Lambert and actress Susanne Gschwendtner movingly embody the emotional costs of war, the play?s only weakness lying in the hint of going on too long generated by its cyclical structure.
The Flood at Summerhall
By: Gerald Berkowitz
SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY/SOCIALIST WORKER
Edinburgh Festival Fringe: War works put rulers to shame
by Mark Brown in Edinburgh
Every socialist will have been nauseated by the Commonwealth commemoration of the centenary of the First World War held in Glasgow on 4 August. David Cameron headed the delegation of establishment figures pretending to give a fig about the millions of lives that were discarded in the imperialist slaughter.
While this sickening display of hypocrisy was going on in Glasgow, the Festival Fringe was getting into full swing over in Edinburgh. It was little surprise to find that some of the most talented theatre makers were commemorating the war with sincerity and power.
The Flood (Summerhall, until 24 August), by self-proclaimed creators of ?extreme political art? Badac Theatre, is harrowing, but also deeply moving. The piece is an intimate two-hander performed in a small underground space for a standing audience.
It alternates between a British soldier?s experiences of the hell of warfare, and the impassioned exchanges between him and his lover?a field nurse. Actor and director Steve Lambert stars as the soldier. His lover is played brilliantly by Susanne Gschwendtner.
Badac are students of Antonin Artaud?s ?Theatre of Cruelty?.
This is brought to bear as the desperation and tenderness of the love affair is punctuated by Lambert?s horrifying, full force performance. His verbal and physical repetition and variation evoke a sense of the terror of ?going over the top? which exceeds any ?naturalistic? representation on screen.
Small War (Traverse Theatre, until 24 August), by Flemish dramatist Valentijn Dhaenens, combines live performance and brilliant projected holograms in a subtle exploration of warfare. It is seen through the experience of a female nurse from the First World War, played by Dhaenens himself. It draws from various sources, from a speech by Attila the Hun to testimonies from the Vietnam War and more recent conflicts. The piece insinuated its way into my psyche and emotions. Both of these highly original works of art shudder with humanity and put the ruling class?s disingenuous wreath laying ceremonies to shame.
An unflinching, immersive WWI drama, staged at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Deep in the bowels of Summerhall, we are in the trenches of the First World War. A nurse chops raw liver while a soldier obsessively counts the lice in his uniform. The tiny space smells harsh and metallic, of old bricks and blood. The audience of ten stands around the walls while the two characters, lovers separated by the conflict, address their duties. This is theatre in the recognisable Eastern European style, a chance for the strong of stomach to bear witness to the monstrosities of a war that took place before we could watch the action streamed live on our mobiles. The noise, the smell of the liver, the thwack as it hits the pillar, the intensity created by a repetitive script and structure bring the individual horror home to every one of the senses. No sooner have the lovers begun to plan their lives together ? town or country? Two children or four? ? than the dreaded whistle blows and it?s time to start fighting and chopping again. This is a relentless 50 minutes and an unpleasant reminder that there are people in their own trenches to this day. These sounds and smells are their reality.
EDINBURGH SPOTLIGHT ****
?Dead ? Blighty ? Fixed ? Back you go ? ?
In Badac?s The Flood, the men of the First World War are literally treated as pieces of meat, scraped from the battlefield and brought to the attentions of The Nurse, who does her best to save as many as she can. Whilst all the while praying that The Soldier, her love, is spared ?the flood of despair?, and not torn from her by the darkness. Badac?s two-hander takes place in a brick-lined basement of Summerhall, a suitably dark and sombre location for the long-distance relationship between the Nurse and the Soldier to build towards its climax. The intimate space allows the audience to witness the emotions unfold from an intense proximity, with direct eye contact being employed to disquieting effect. Disturbing from the outset and with powerful use of repetition and simple props which evoke a butcher?s slab rather than a hospital ward, The Flood is unrelenting in its drive towards its inevitable end. The fact that the company are able to wring such raw emotion from so stark a set is testament to the strength of the script and of the performances, which pound with brutal directness one moment, then ache with heartbreaking tenderness the next. A bloody and unflinching protest against the futility of war, The Flood rises with an emotional surge which is hard not to be swept away by.
BROADWAY BABY ****
by Kyung Oh on 10th August 2014
The Flood provides a haunting, tragic insight into one of the most devastating events in modern history. The Great War has just broken out, separating a man and a woman, soldier and nurse; we follow a year in their lives as they cling onto hope. The sole light of their lives are the letters they receive from each other.
The monotony, the discomfort of standing up, the sheer volume and relentlessness of the explosions and the piles of dead bodies all come together very effectively to simulate the trauma of the war.
This site-specific show takes place in a crammed underground space that resembles a bunker. Maximum capacity for the audience is about twelve people and we stand for the entire seventy minutes. It is an uncomfortable experience and deliberately so. We watch, up-close, as the soldier goes over the top, yelling to himself: ?concentrate, concentrate, concentrate!? The actress bangs on the metal table with an iron baton, shaking our eardrums with bomb shells going off; with the handle of a knife she simulates machine gun fire. After the battle, we are in a hospital, watching the nurse. It seems to be long since her tasks have become routine: she takes out a handful of meat chunks from a bucket . She disposes of the dead, amputates limbs and crudely stitches up the injured.
These two events happen repeatedly throughout the show. The monotony, the discomfort of standing up, the sheer volume and relentlessness of the explosions and the piles of dead bodies all come together very effectively to simulate the trauma of the war. As the show progressed, my body and mind came to know very well what to expect when the soldier was about to go over the top, but the noises and the explosions made me flinch harder and harder. It is so visceral that one feels that life in the trenches was nothing to get used to.
Several audience members were in tears by the end. The tone of the letters becomes more and more tragic. The nurse and the soldier fall deeper and deeper in love and tell each other more and more about the bright future they plan to have together. Their prose is not beautiful or poetic and at times comes across as clumsy, even, but they are not wordsmiths: they are a nurse and a soldier. Perhaps the show has no obligation to turn a story of a devastating war into something beautiful. Several audience members were in tears by the end. This show is very tragic and difficult to get through, but it is also very necessary. A brilliantly effective, novel way of depicting the terrors of the trenches, the Great War, and its far-reaching devastation.
The Flood at Summerhall (Venue 26).
Reviewed by Joyce McMillan
In a basement space at Summerhall, a man is throwing small pieces of chopped liver at a metal plate screwed to a rough brick wall. In the repetitive style often adopted by Badac ? a company dedicated to portraying oppression in all its forms ? he goes through the ritual of throwing the liver not once or twice, but five or six times.
The idea is to conjure up the horror of repeated attacks on the Western Front during the First World War. The soldier hears the call to arms, prays or mutters, goes over the top, charges, throws the bloody mess at the wall; then his sweetheart, a nurse, comes and clears the liver into a bucket, delicately sewing and patching some pieces of it, discarding others.
The presence of this bloody mess is meant, of course, to conjure up the utter carnage of the Western Front; the trouble is that the image is both too literal and too small to begin to encompass the horror of the trenches. Elsewhere in this play, though, there is some fine writing and acting, particularly around the character of the nurse, who tries to keep the spectre of her fiancÚ?s death at bay by the sheer force of her love; and Steve Lambert?s text ? partly inspired by Vera Brittain?s Testament of Youth ? shows a deep and sometimes lyrical understanding of how millions of survivors lost the future that would have given their lives meaning, in this mighty explosion of state-organised violence.