EdFringe 2018 Review: Urban Death

Urban Death
Rating: ★★★

Venue: Sweet - Grassmarket

Entering Urban Death at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we are warned to switch our phones off – and ensure no glowing lights (e.g. pesky smartwatches) are visible. The cynic in you might think this is some William Castle style scaremongering or perhaps just the words of a theatre troupe fed up of technology rearing its head within the arts. Fortunately it works in both these areas, creating an atmospheric and often unsettling experience as Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group take us on a journey through macabre Grand Guignol Theatre.

What follows are a number of wordless vignettes capturing death in all its shapes sizes from the terrifying to the uneasy to the awkwardly amusing. These skits range in their practical effects, success, and shock value.

Each vignette is composed with its own soundtrack – composed by Christopher Reiner – with silence used sparingly to an unsettling advantage. Therefore each short – all under one minute has a unique identity – travelling the full genre of horror. Tapping into sexual horror, the occult, domestic violence, physical violence, alien abduction, mental illness, and countless other tropes, these vignettes are performed with vigour and a terrifying ferocity by the seven person troupe of performers.

The pitch black of the small theatre becomes all consuming and nerve-wracking – particularly when performers leave the safety of the stage and take positions at the side of the audience seating area. One tip from this writer would be to position yourself in the front two rows of the theatre. Many of the vignettes have performers on floor level and with a few full rows in front of you, you are unlikely to understand or get a full picture of the piece when this view is obscured – significantly lessening its impact.

Urban Death is a celebration of the macabre, uncomfortable and bizarre, a love letter to the theatre of the Grand Guignol. Inventive effects, atmospheric use of lighting, and deranged performances all work in Urban Death’s favour - although this is most certainly not a piece for those who like their theatre conventional. 
Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre Group 2481129290359214841
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