EdFringe 2022 Review: Marrow

Craig Macarthur takes centre stage in Assembly Festival’s Marrow directed by Melissa Firlit. This insightful, passionate and affecting one man show from writer Brian Quirk returns after a previous ten day Edinburgh Fringe run in 2019.

Marrow centres on a young gay man who becomes the victim of a destructive hate crime leaving his body and mind shattered. Intercutting his sporadic, scattered recollections with his challenging recovery, Marrow examines the healing power of memories and shines as a plea for tolerance, acceptance and equality.

Entering the Front Room on Assembly’s George Street venue we see our protagonist enthusiastically moving around the stage, welcoming the audience with a wide-eyed enthusiasm. Darkness soon fills the stage and the air is soon filled with vitriolic homophobic slurs as a the debilitating attack occurs – the protagonist sharing “Why did I wear leg warmers?” capturing the awful sense of blame victims sadly so often accept. Changing into a hospital gown, Macarthur soon explores a range of characters from the context of his hospital bed – a New York nurse, a Spanish mother, a sassy best friend, and romantic partners. Intercutting these characters with the protagonist’s gradually, yet sporadically and chronologically random memories we begin to get a picture of the intelligent, passionate and enthusiastic young man now left physically, emotionally and mentally damaged.

Quirk’s narrative is an exciting one that takes a few beats to fully sync with – yet the fragmented style of these gradual recurring memories allows us to slowly build-up a picture of Macarthur’s character: his personality, his experiences, and his relationships – the man he was, juxtaposed with the broken man he is now. Macarthur’s performance physically captures the damage experienced by the attack, gains added impact in the switches back to the buoyant, effervescent young man we connect with through the character’s vibrant memories.

The importance of our memories as a means of connecting us is highlighted in a moment of sharing between the audience. The lights come up and Macarthur asks the audience about their experiences – names of first kisses, first pets, fears, and other recollections – in a wall-breaking moment of bonding when strengthens our emotional investment in the narrative and highlights a beautiful shared humanity, opposing the moment of brutal hate and prejudice that opens the show.

Praise should not only go to Macarthur on his impressive physicality exploring the world of our protagonist both pre and post-assault, but the visceral emotion he packs into every scene. Delivering a tour de force that captures a sincere humanity in a manner that defies traditional chronological narrative storytelling. Macarthur also captures the impact of the LGBTQ+ community in a stacked A to Z (Or Gay to Z) of the queer people who have bettered society, further shining light on a need for tolerance and mutual respect in our society.

Marrow is a visceral, striking and often compelling piece of theatre that soars through Macarthur’s vibrant performance rich in emotional and physical depth. You should move this gem of the festival to the top of your Edinburgh Fringe priorities.

Marrow runs until the 27th of August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Get tickets here.

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