The Sideshow

Out of the Blue, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper

Three stars

Gentrification of major cities around the world has arguably reached crisis point, with the rise of short term lets and developers attempting to bulldoze away local communities at a global premium. With such moves particularly visible in Edinburgh just now, writer Duncan Kidd and director Gavin Crichton’s piece of allegorical agit-prop looks at the very real consequences of what is happening right now on their Leith doorstep, a stone’s throw from Out of the Blue’s art space.

This collaboration between Active Inquiry and Strange Town theatre companies alongside the All or Nothing aerial dance company sets out its store in the mythical town of Omawick, where the circus visits every year, keeping the local economy afloat. When the circus attempts to buy up everything in sight for themselves, despite initial encouragement from the mayor and her yes men and women, the local townsfolk revolt, with the result being that the circus departs forever.

Inspired by Friedrich Durrenmatt’s play, The Visit, and devised with the show’s fifteen-strong acting ensemble, five aerialists and two musicians, it’s not hard to see parallels with real life events of late. Over sixty-five rollicking minutes, the audience move in and about a performance space centred around a statue of town founder Oma, here a ukulele-playing sprite played by Megan Travers. At points they become part of the action, which shifts between various set-pieces that focus on businesses under threat, absurdist speechifying and a couple of prodigals’ returns from locals who haven’t always made good.

It’s all wonderfully utopian stuff, with the good people of Omawick taking smiley-faced and rainbow-coloured control of their own destiny. As simplistic as it might sometimes appear, Crichton and Kidd’s construction is an expression of localism in its purest form. In terms of collective action, it is also a timely summing up of where we are now, and the people power required to provide a voice that is about more than just money talking.