The Abode @ Underbelly Cowgate

The Abode is a hugely inventive production imagining the trolls of the American alt-right as literal trolls of a dark underground world

Review by Jamie Dunn | 14 Aug 2018

The Abode is a dazzling epic that’s both overflowing and threadbare. With only a few fairy lights, some hand torches and a trio of banana yellow storage trunks, this production, situated in the damp bowels of Underbelly Cowgate, could put some of the International Festival productions to shame with its theatrical scope and go-for-broke ambition.

Moving at breakneck pace, it follows Samuel, a young man with little going for him. He works as a put-upon receptionist at a low-rent hotel and the girl he fancies, a barista at a local coffee shop, doesn’t know he exists. Home life isn’t much better: his father has passed away and he lives in the shadow of his half-sister, Wendy, a politically active student at a liberal arts college.

In short, Samuel is lost, and that makes him susceptible to a group of white supremacists who he discovers while playing around with his father’s old radio and stumbles across the frequency on which they communicate their hateful ideas about women, immigrants and gay people in among macho workout tips and sexist dating advice. A visit to one of their meetings, lead by their creepily charasmitc figurehead, Ricky, and Samuel is hooked.

What really makes The Abode sing is that this all too familiar alt-right society is imagined in this endlessly inventive production (directed by Cathy Thomas-Grant) as a hallucinatory alternate dimension where these fascist trolls take the form of literal trolls with designs on Samuel’s soul, and only his good-hearted sister, with the help of a radical group of trollhunters, can save him.

The Abode is overwhelming but the superb ensemble cast – made up of a dozen fresh-faced performers from California's Pepperdine University – keep things lucid. As well as essaying characters on opposite sides of the political spectrum, they also act as choruses to Samuel’s odyssey, commenting on the action and helping to elucidate the mind-bending plot. Your eyes may roll at some of the play’s naïve political sentiments (we’re implored to befriend a nazi, not punch one), but the presentation is thrilling. You’ll find few more imaginatively staged shows at this year’s Fringe.

The Abode, Underbelly, Cowgate (Big Belly), 2-16 Aug, £10-9

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