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Judgment days in a tale of power and violence

Horizontal Collaboration

JUDGING PANEL: Four actors are in the dark as much as the audience in Horizontal Collaboration
JUDGING PANEL: Four actors are in the dark as much as the audience in Horizontal Collaboration

Horizontal Collaboration

Traverse Theatre

The audience becomes the public gallery in Horizontal Collaboration, David Leddy's latest set of dark imaginings for his Fire Exit company.

Four actors who sit at a long table with laptops lined up in front of them are the judges. With a different cast for each performance - sometimes all men, sometimes all women, sometimes a mix of both - the quartet read the words on the screen for the first time as they take on the roles of United Nations lawyers at a tribunal in an un-named African state.

The story they unveil of Judith K, the widow of an assassinated warlord accused of having sex with an enemy soldier, is one of institutionalised misogyny in a volatile country where women in power are barely tolerated.

With the actors as much in the dark as the audience, the mixing and matching of genders may or may not be crucial to how the text is both delivered and perceived depending on their reactions. With an all-female line-up featuring Selina Boyack, Pauline Lynch, Claire Dargo and Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh, it became a forensic litany of corrupted power and political survival in a broodingly intense affair.

City Of The Blind

Traverse Theatre

Fire Exit's companion piece to Horizontal Collaboration may deal with similar themes of sexual abuse in high places, but this three-hour political thriller is not a piece of theatre at all.

Rather, over its six 30-minute episodes, writer and director David Leddy takes the fast-moving iconography of high-concept TV action yarns and applies them to an online drama about UN agent Cassie's gradual exposure of a high-level conspiracy concerning institutionalised male rape by fellow agents in Africa.

While all of this is drawn from real-life evidence referenced at the end of each chapter, Leddy keeps his narrative strictly mainstream by way of an increasingy urgent mix of surveillance footage, CCTV, e-mail, phone calls, text messages and audio bugs.

While this lo-fi aesthetic offsets the lack of a Hollywood budget, it also makes for a busy interactive study of corruption in high places laced with classical Greek allusions. It was Cassandra, after all, who had the gift of prophecy, but was never believed.

In the current climate of distrust in public officials, mysteriously lost files and hacking oin a grand scale, this makes for some pretty unsettling eavesdropping.

The House Of Adelaida Ivanovna

Ocean Terminal

Visual European theatre is not anything new in Edinburgh in August, particularly in the International Festival. Tucked away as part of Edinburgh Art Festival's Associate Programme, however, the Hamburg and London-based Villa Design Group's post-modern reimagining of Gogol's play, The Gamblers, is in danger of escaping attention.

Ostensibly an exhibition of a set modelled on a faux Russian dacha created by Yves Saint Laurent, Than Hussein Clark, James Connick and William Joys' version is an elaborate open-plan construction of screens, curious cabinets and a long boardroom table at the centre of a vast warehouse-like space on the top floor of Ocean Terminal.

By night, this installation comes alive with a two-hour performance, in which Laura Schuller's chicly conniving Adelaida holds court to a conference of empire-builders as they discuss the construction of a library to house Gogol's archive.

On one level, such a concept is a great big in-joke. As the audience is forced to peer around the screens to check out Adelaida's latest outfit, however, and with Edinburgh's skyline visible through a large window, it becomes an increasingly audacious statement on architecture and morality.

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