Horizon Arts—led by Artistic Director Philip Stokes—have garnered the reputation of being able to pack a paralysing emotional punch. Their previous visits to the Fringe—most recently in last year's Über Hate Gang and 2009's multi-award-winning Heroin(e) for Breakfast—left sell-out audiences weeping through close cross-examination of tragically flawed characters as they plummet towards some heart-wrenching conclusion.
This year, Stokes revisits his 2007 show My Filthy Hunt. On a striking, simple set—five upstanding strips of mirror and some ever-puffing dry ice—four figures strip to their undies and deliver extensive eulogies for Marvin, a benevolent friend-cum-pseudo-philosopher, on how he changed their lives. Thus follows an energetic précis of each of their personal torments—tales of sexual abuse, failed suicide attempts, crippling self-doubt and nihilistic hedonism—and Marvin's life-changing advice.
These dynamic monologue-athons reveal exactly why Horizon Arts are regarded as top-of-their-game in Fringe theatre. Whilst each character details their life's story, the company become those that moulded it, using vibrant, almost grotesque physical theatre and voicework.
Stokes possesses an enormously talented cast, carefully directed, and the show's primary flaw is in its script, not in performance. Once we've heard their stories, Stokes throws these four characters together; actions, reactions, and interactions develop, but these feel, though engaging and well-drawn, superfluous to any dramatic conclusion. The action seems to hint that something more will happen—the deified, aphorism-spouting Marvin seems ripe for a shock twist—but in the end, we just come full circle. The play is purely an exploration of characterisation but a quite beautiful one nonetheless.