As a photographer, I have a leaning towards shows with a strong visual presence and style. There are times during The Grind Show – when the sharply-defined lighting freezes the action – that the tableaux presented by TBA Collaborative resemble panels from a graphic novel. Further parallels exist, particularly with some of the visual metaphors used – such as the show’s eerily damaged ringmaster being a crippled Uncle Sam figure; or the knife-throwing twin sisters being depersonalised via the use of carnival masks.
Indeed, the plot and theme of The Grind Show could be lifted from a tale by Neil Gaiman or the like, with its use of strong, dark themes and metaphors to examine and comment on the nature of individuality, fear and obsession. The carnival sideshow performers, well portrayed by a gifted young cast, are trapped: externally, doomed to repeat their own particular acts every day; and equally by their own idiosyncracies and internal demons.
A child is thrown into this grotesque troupe, forced to discover their own act and thus become as absorbed and ensnared as the rest. Through their journey, we see each of the turns, presented in surreal fashion with some imaginative stagecraft and direction. Thanks to its lighting and wardrobe choices, the show also has a washed-out, monochromatic feel, which adds to its nightmarish atmosphere and sinister mood.
I had the advantage of reading the show’s synopsis on TBA Collaborative’s website but I’m not sure if the show came with a programme detailing the same. Without that, some of the plotting and themes may have been a touch oblique, though that is in part due to the show’s one-hour length and a common issue with many Fringe theatre productions.
That aside, The Grind Show was a darkly beautiful and disturbingly eerie piece that successfully seared some of its unique style and vision into a deep, hidden place within my mind. TBA Collaborative should be commended for bringing such an atmospheric and unique show to the Fringe – give them your support and they should hopefully become regulars here.
The Grind Show runs until August 31st (not 17th) at C Venues. £8.50 (£7.50 concession)