Pros: The sustained pace and daring choreography make an hour fly by.
Cons: Accompanying modern rock music clashes with the period setting and costumes.
Using a typically cinematic composition, which combines fast-paced acting, loud music and strong physical choreography, Incognito Theatre takes its audiences to the backstreets of post-WWI London, where the local gangs are raging and jazz is playing in the background.
It’s the year 1918 and Britain is celebrating its great victory over the Germans when an outbreak of Spanish Flu spreads across the country. The victim count is high and cripples a population not yet recovered from four years of fighting and misery. Unemployment in the capital hits 2.5 million people and the boroughs are ruled by different clans, which control the black market of drugs and prostitution, as well as the bets over illegal boxing matches. Pickpockets are in every corner of the city and the coppers are often colluding with the gangsters.
Drawing from the profiles of some known criminals of the time, the ensemble offers a blood-soaked tableau of life on the streets, with badass all-female squads and money-hungry scoundrels playing the hard game. Pushed by circumstance to join forces, a group of five rogues – two women and three men – carve their place in the racket, until they’re confronted by the biggest boss in town.
Spectacular fights break out on stage, accompanied by loud, crushing rock music and fuelled by the cast’s explosive energy. Kicks and punches fly so close to the first row that I find myself wondering if any ticket-holders have ever been hurt. The choice of accompanying these sequences with modern music – deliberately clashing with the period setting and costumes – is an unnecessary mimicking of the adrenaline-triggering sensationalism proper to cinema. In live performance, the sheer proximity to the action should naturally generate an equivalent thrill.
Tobacco Road is the typical gritty portrayal of life in the 20s, in which violence and substance abuse are glamourised. Its daring choreography is visually stunning, but the original features are scarce and make it fall into the safe category of the crowd-pleasers.
Written and Produced by: Incognito Theatre Company
Directed by: Roberta Zuric
Booking Until: 27 August 2018
Box Office: 0131 556 6550
Booking Link: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/tobacco-road