Edinburgh Festival 97: Theatre: Wounds to the Face

On the Fringe
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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)