B File (FringeTIX)
Stone/Castro Company & Guests @ Holden Street Theatres (The Studio)
8:00pm, Mon 26 Mar 2007
It’s another Monday night Fringe dead zone, and one of the few remaining things on the shortlist is B File, which presumably takes place in a German airport – a lot of German is spoken, and there’s a collection of European characters drifting through. It centers on the police interrogation of five passengers, most of whom appear – through fair means or foul – to be named “Beatrice”. The first is the Japanese Beatrice, whose guilt is communicated to the audience by her lack of passport. At this stage, we don’t really mind that the police are continually badgering her about her sleeping habits with her husband; we’ve already ascertained that she’s guilty, a feeling further exacerbated when she tries to escape.
The second Beatrice, a Portuguese dancer returning from Brazil, starts triggering warning signals; the police ask her to dance for them whilst rifling through her possessions. The audience giggles at their reactions to the dance, but I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. The third Beatrice, an older Australian woman on holiday, leaves us in no doubt – the police have overstepped the mark, randomly grabbing her crotch, barking overly personal questions at her – abusing her. The impact is even greater due to this Beatrice’s inclination to assist them in any way possible until the abuse starts, whereupon she shrinks, repressed, into a cowering shell.
We finally meet our fourth interviewee – an Italian man trying to usher his “Hungarian cousin” through passport control – and, as with the Japanese Beatrice, we are led to be suspicious of him… but we also have no faith left in the police. When the police start fighting amongst themselves, we simply don’t know what to think; as the house lights drop, with two officers squabbling on the floor, we’re left very much in limbo – but it feels very improvised, almost ludicrously slapstick.
B File feels horribly mean-spirited – evil, insidious even – in its portrayal of characters. On the one hand, it appears to legitimise the overbearing and abusive techniques of the authoritarian characters, at the expense of the innocent; but maybe that’s the point… maybe it’s supposed to be an even and level analysis of the situation. But the ending is so out of place with respect to the rest of the performance; if it is improvised, then why place it upon this unsettling, oppressive framework? If it’s not improvised, then what’s the point?
There’s a couple of more technical issues with the performance, too – the multi-lingual nature of the dialogue makes it occasionally hard to follow; soft speech doesn’t really help. And the re-use of Jo Stone (as the Japanese Beatrice, then a police officer) and Paulo Castro (as a police officer, then the dodgy Italian man) really jolts the sense of disbelief.
Which, I suppose, is just as well – because B File left an awful, mean-spirited taste in my mouth.