Walking the Tightrope @ Underbelly Potterrow

Review by Charlie Hanks | 11 Aug 2015

It is no revelation to talk of the tension between art and politics, but it is rare and exciting to see it approached as dynamically as this.

Inspired by high-profile cancellations of cultural events last summer, Walking the Tightrope is, at bottom, a discussion of censorship and boycotting in the arts but these seven short plays cover many more bases, from quid-pro-quo arts funding to media portrayals of religion. The calibre of the playwrights involved, including Mark Ravenhill and Timberlake Wertenbaker, is an indication of the sensitivity and urgency of the topic, and the scripts are of an exceptionally high quality. Caryl Churchill’s symbolic finale is outstanding, a scene played on surreal repetition with words changing to highlight what we are not being told.

The cast of four is excellent, elegantly switching between characters and enjoying the variety. The audience enjoys diverse responses and is encouraged to share their own in a 30-minute discussion with commissioning director Cressida Brown and a panel that changes daily. The audience may be challenged but mainly, it would seem, only vindicated in its concerns and ideas. Neil LaBute’s short play that asks, 'Is this art?' toys with being brutally shocking. The production shies away; not unreasonably, but it does raise questions of objective lines in censorship that neither Brown nor these otherwise terrific plays and panellists can really answer.

Walking the Tightrope: The Tension Between Art and Politics, Underbelly Potterrow, until 31 Aug (not 17), 3.35pm, £15.50/£14.50 (£14.50/£13.50)