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Fringe Review: Fugee

By Mer Weinhold on June 17, 2016

60 minutes | Mature | Drama

The energy and enthusiasm that young actors bring to the stage is always impressive, and Third Wall Academy is giving them an opportunity this year at Fringe. The story of Fugee is a good fit for teenaged actors, centring as it does on a 14-year-old refugee from Côte d’Ivoire, Kojo. He makes his way to the UK and does his best to deal with the labyrinthine bureaucracy surrounding refugees, encountering culture shock and language barriers and struggling to get by without much support.

Playwright Abi Morgan has some solid credentials, and is tackling a timely and important topic. However, the dialogue quickly begins to grate, exclusively employing a stylized repetitive format that feels awkward and unnatural. The non-linear storyline is reasonably easy to follow, but feels rushed towards the end. As well, the script breaks the fourth wall faster and more thoroughly than the Kool-Aid Man, with the action on stage frequently pausing for the characters to talk about the actors playing them.

As a drama, Fugee doesn’t shy away from raw emotion, and one of the more frequent emotions is terror. This was typically expressed through screaming, which is effective once or twice in a performance but then becomes unsettling without really adding to the atmosphere.

The set consists of two boxes and two pallet-like benches that are easily rearranged and upended to change scenes. There are no props, which simplifies the production but may detract from the performance. Since everything is mimed, it can take a moment to figure out what invisible object a character is holding.

Opening nights often have a couple of wrinkles to iron out, and in this case the sound cues were over-amplified — a simple change which will likely be corrected for the rest of the show.

The high energy and loud volume may have been a bit more than my old bones could handle, but Fugee is a great chance to see tomorrow’s acting talent starting their careers with an ambitious production.

Fugee plays at Venue 2 – Academic Hall, 133 Séraphin-Marion, on June 18 at 4:00 pm, June 19 at 7:30 pm, June 20 at 11:00 pm, June 23 at 6:00 pm, and June 25 at 9:30 pm.