The Black Lung @ The Black Lung Theatre
8:00pm, Thu 29 Mar 2007
Aaaaaaaaaah, back to the Black Lung. Word-of-mouth seems to be working a treat here, with crowds gathering early. And it’s becoming an ever-more interesting crowd too, with a great mix of the tired and jaded arty-types slinking around the bar and tables, the Fringe-enthusiastic wide-eyed and open, and the people who are no longer sure why they’re here in this ramshackle, until-recently-condemned building… and their eyes, scared and darting, are my favourites. We all file into the performance space, and I score myself a fantastic seat sharing the lounge with one of the guys who performed in Rubeville; I express my appreciation to him, he thanks me, and I’m suddenly convinced that he’s involved in the show.
While the crowd was seating themselves, a sparse bongo & double-bass musical accompaniment provides an expectant and gritty texture; the lights drop, and when they rise we meet our hero, crumpled on the floor. The Narrator appears, and coldly detached voice guides the remainder of the proceedings – an excursion through the memories of our hero.
His Flame appears, smokily singing, before they meet – in his mind, at least. And, of course, my sofa-mate sprang into the story midway through the performance, providing a flamboyantly loud and roaming counterpoint to the Narrator’s powerful – but static – presence. As we reconcile the strands of memory, there’s a building of tempo, a sense of urgency, a manic blur of violence (a head smashed with a sugar-glass bottle – nice touch!), and our Flame repeats her song to round out the show.
Sugar is perhaps the most coherent and scripted of the Black Lung productions; a feeling reinforced when I saw it for a second time a few days later (a long story) and an almost identical performance resulted. And that is in no way a negative; it stands up to repeated viewing well. It’s a great bit of Fringe theatre that feels perfectly at home in its environment: the Black Lung, once again, comes up trumps.