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Physical theatre by the sea in Brighton Festival

16 May, 2019

For the second of their Brighton Festival reviews, Kings Brighton students Yoshi Cristina Ortiz Leal (words) and Gabriela Braga Rabelo dos Santos (photos) attended outdoor arts performance On Edge.

Slavery. At first the word triggers thoughts of events which occurred in 17th century America, ignoring most cases found across the world and attributing this atrocity to a single country and a single period. Nonetheless, it is not an event restricted by time, or bound to a specific area, as it can be found anywhere and even nowadays, albeit under different circumstances.

Men, women, and children of all ages and backgrounds still become the victims of slavery; the perpetrators of such crimes forcing them to work for little or no pay. Labour, sexual and criminal exploitation, domestic servitude, organ harvesting — the victims of such horrors may give a form of 'consent' when threatened, coerced, abducted, forced or deceived, however this is irrelevant as they are not doing it on their own will, but following a path carved for them by another hand that cares little about their safety.

All this, while horrifying to many who believed it to be just a part of the past, is happening currently and is the main issue presented in On Edge.

On Edge was performed on Saturday 11th May as part of Without Walls, a free afternoon of outdoor arts performances on Brighton seafront near the i360.

By physical theatre company Justice in Motion, the production combined elements of theatre, acrobatics, dance and parkour. The story was brought to life with the help of an elaborate and impressive set structure consisting of poles to simulate a construction site, in which most of the performance takes place, as they attempt to portray the hardships of people who've been unlucky enough to fall into the trap of modern slavery.

The movements of the performers, of varying nationalities and most with several credits to their name, tell the story of men and women caught in dangerous situations, aided by background music, perfectly setting the tone, and the spoken word.

What was striking was how they moved so quickly, climbing the structure and jumping from it only to fall once more upon its foundations, strong enough to hold them as they did the acrobatics. It was fascinating to wonder how they built such a structure, knowing well that a single mistake could possibly bring the entire thing tumbling down, and yet what stayed, once the clapping of the audience died down and the performers had left the stage, were the final moments.

At the end there was one man, attempting to escape from the world he found himself in but finding himself forced back into the bright yellow vest that all construction workers, at least the ones represented by the company, wore. It was interesting to see them run around, all attempting to trap this one man back into the workforce, a job which surely earned him barely enough to survive throughout the day and in which, upon not performing to the expected level, he would be beaten if violence was deemed necessary.

Most importantly it struck a thought into my mind, the kind which claimed the possibility of there being in the real world someone who had suffered the same as this fictional character portrayed upon the beach of Brighton, in front of a crowd. The only difference being that whilst to one it's fiction attempting to simulate reality, to the other it is an inescapable truth.