Progress? | Thoughts on the Fringe

One of the major ideas that has really stuck with me after seeing various works at the Fringe is the idea of progress and why we’re still waiting. Many Fringe shows depict incidences from the past and make a comment on the progress that has been made since then, but more often than that the comment is on how much hasn’t changed when it should have.
We live in an age where liberalism is on the rise, where change and difference is respected and celebrated more and more. But we’re still not quite there yet. In fact in some cases the naysayers are still the majority but why do we have to live with that? I wish we didn’t.
Some great pieces that I’ve seen talk about the continued discrimination that exist because of gender, race and sexual orientation – all things that to someone of my generation feel incredibly pointless and unfair.

Freeman by Strictly Arts Theatre shows us how black people have been unlawfully treated all the way through history from slavery all the way up to police brutality in the present day. We often like to think that the disgusting treatment of slavery is a thing of the past, and while things are different now this show really resonates with how that kind of brutality does exist on quite a large scale by people who still see the colour of someone’s skin as something to be threatened by or to feel superior to.

James Ley’s Love Song to Lavender Menace tells the story of the gay rights movement in Edinburgh and the founding of the first LGBT exclusive bookshop, Lavender Menace. A brilliant and moving play that makes you feel hopeful. However it does come from a background of fear and secrecy that many LGBT people still feel the need to shroud themselves in.

Six the Musical is a brilliant pop princess retelling of the ‘herstory’ of Henry VIII’s wives and besides being bloody fabulous it also comes from a POV that we only really know and care about who they are because of their husband. Obviously we live in completely different times now but it’s not like there isn’t some women who are famous because of the man they flank…

Breach Theatre‘s It’s True, It’s True, It’s True is a verbatim reading of transcripts from one of the first rape trials back in 1600s Rome where a woman’s word is not to be believed over a man’s despite strong reasonable doubt. First thoughts make you think wow that woman had modern ideals back then but really it’s literally just a woman who wasn’t too ashamed or afraid to tell the truth. With lots of slut-shaming and locker-room joking it’s not a far cry from the stories we still hear today.

Then there was Revenants which managed to address both women’s and LGBT rights as well as racism through the story of an American soldier meeting the Queen Mother and her actor friend in the countryside during WWII. Open conversation from different backgrounds leads to a greater awareness of one another’s limitations and troubles which is obviously a good thing but we all know how little these causes have moved on in the near century since WWII.

We have moved on as a society and those changes are something to be proud of, but we are nowhere near where it feels like we should be. These great shows are discussing issues and that is hugely important and commendable (and I’d highly recommend catching them before the festival ends). I just hope that enough people who needed their minds changing also found themselves in those theatres and thinking ‘hey that’s not very fair’, because people like me already agree. I’m sure we will get to that majority accepting paradise one day but how long is it going to take?

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