Edinburgh Festival 97: Theatre: Wounds to the Face

On the Fringe
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The Independent Culture
Never mind wounds to the face, I'm worried about the wounds to the audience, banged round the head for 75 minutes by Howard Barker and his trademark rhetoric: the way all his characters have of speaking that's at once icy cold and red hot hysterical. Barker's latest one for the Wrestling School dispenses with conventional narrative (if you're a Barker lover) or loses the plot (if you're not) to explore how the beauty or ugliness of a face affects our sense of identity. An unintelligible story about a revolution against the tyranny of the beautiful threads its way through the play, but essentially, this is a series of crushingly worthy sketches. A soldier disfigured by a grenade is rejected by his fiancee. Two men fight over a face that one has "stolen" from the other. In one of several arch and obvious historical digressions, a prisoner in the Bastille finds his libido flagging because he's not allowed to remove his mask to have sex. If they ever introduce a GCSE in "the nature of body fascism", this might have a future as a theatre-in-education piece. It certainly doesn't work as a play.

Assembly Rooms (Venue 3). To 30 Aug (0131-226 2428)

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