University of Edinburgh Drill Hall
20–29 August, 22.30
Distant dull voices crackle over loudspeakers sending orders to the audience. Lights flash and alarms pulsate. A deep ambient drone wraps itself around the audience as they walk along the concrete floor to designated standing areas. A youthful enthusiasm, also seen when watching A Bridge Too Far or Where Eagles Dare, was evident in certain members of the audience.
Kursk, through the creation of an extraordinary set, instantly engrosses the audience in the performance as soon as they can find somewhere to stand. Designed to recreate the sounds, sights and smells of a Trafalgar class nuclear submarine, Kursk follows the crew of the ship on their twelve weeks of operations.
Emotional build up on board the cramped and isolated conditions is intensified by the need for messages from home. These feelings are harder to represent on stage, however, than they are on a film like Das Boot which expertly portrays the long periods of nothing interspersed with heart pounding action.
This aside, the performances were convincing, the captain of the ship especially so. His terse and uncomfortable chat with other crew mates, and his nervous anxiety being surrounded by older sailors presented a degree of depth lacking even in some monologues.
A great deal of theatre at the Fringe opts for a black curtain over elaborate sets and monologue in place of dialogue. It’s nice to see theatre making efforts to claim back some of the physical awe that has mostly been claimed by cinema. Very well done.