Greenside at Nicolson Square (Fern Studio)
An intimate studio theatre, sparse set, and a pen: all Jamie Sefton needs for an evocative and sincere performance.
A Thousand Sons, written and performed by Sefton, follows the fictional Bertie as he is involved with nuclear weapon testing in the 1950s and the consequences he experiences after. According to the BNTVA (a charity supporting atomic veterans), between 1952 and 1965 over 22,000 British Servicemen were involved in the testing and clean-up of nuclear weapons. As a result of exposure to extreme levels of ionising radiation, thousands experienced – even today – irreversible effects and illnesses, as do their children. Bertie’s story is representative of these thousands.
From Sefton’s first words to the play’s final blackout, the audience at Edinburgh Fringe’s Fern Studio was entranced. Sefton is a captivating storyteller. His use of audience interaction, inviting several of the first rows into the story, increased our engagement and investment as the tale felt personalised. As Bertie, Sefton is wholly convincing, holding the audience’s attention throughout the performance. He also multi-roles well – using excellent physicality and distinct voices to transform between the other vital characters in the narrative.
Language is a key part of this production, as not only does Sefton make use of narration and more traditional dialogue, but also poetry and verbatim. These instances punctuate the flow of the story with emphasis, and it would have been brilliant to have more poetic moments from the outset, to set this tone.
Another exciting storytelling tool is the use of a white chalk pen, which Sefton uses on both the floor and his skin, symbolising the impact of the nuclear weapons and radiation on the human body. The image of the skeletal hand is striking. The white dot on his cheek smudging but never dissolving clearly represents the lasting impact of the damage done by the nuclear testing. Both images are startling and will stay with audiences for a long time, alike the true events that the production highlights.
Leaving the auditorium newly aware of these harrowing past events, sources such as https://www.bntva.com/ have been hugely educational to me. In doing further research, just as many other audience members must be doing too, it is clear that A Thousand Sons is achieving its goals: both theatrically and politically.
Writer and directed: Jamie Sefton
Produced by: Kelsey Cooke
A Thousand Sons plays at EdFringe’s Greenside at Nicolson Square until 20 August. Further information and bookings here.
The play is also scheduled to play at Camden People’s Theatre 1 – 5 November. More information here.