Dundee Rep Ensemble and Traverse Theatre’s co-production of Lynda Radley’s Futureproof may feature the freaks of an old-time travelling sideshow act, but its themes of cultural change, prejudices and alienation are as relevant as any more modern and populist form of entertainment today.
Riley is proud of his ‘children’ – the fattest man in the world, a living mermaid, conjoined twins, the bearded ‘countess’, and his assistant and friend George / Georgina. But, as he takes his show to towns up and down the country, he begins to realise tastes have changed: at best, his show is met with indifference; at worst, he’s on the receiving end of violence from the locals.
So, he makes the decision to change – and from that moment, not only the acts themselves must transform, but so do the human dynamics between them, each reacting to change in different and often desperate ways.
Design here is stylish and evocative of the period: all ramshackle caravans and flickering silent movie projection. The performances are good, just managing to stay the right side of scenery-chewing melodrama in places, but on the whole focusing sympathetically on the personal tragedies affecting each character.
Unlike much of the Traverse’s Fringe programme this year, Futureproof is traditional piece with a beginning, middle and an end. It’s no worse for it; and its character-driven narrative and thought-provoking themes are strong enough to carry it through its 90-minute length.
By the end of the piece, when the sideshow has bowed to popular demands and changed beyond all recognition, Futureproof shows that pride and integrity are the rarest of qualities; whilst freakish, greed-driven behaviour is all too common.
Futureproof runs until 29 Aug (not Mondays) at The Traverse. More details here.