Fewer Emergencies is an extraordinary piece of writing. In fifty five minutes Martin Crimp explores such a broad variety of themes, from the personal coping mechanisms of a family breakdown in Whole Blue Sky to the most violent of human action born from nothing but boredom in Face to the Wall, that you can’t help but feel short-changed by those other playwrights who take three hours to tell us that protagonist X has experience Y. All of it is borne by an engrossing style and rhythm, combining abstract metaphorical imagery with intensely emotional outbursts.
Competently putting on such a play would be a phenomenal task for any company, demanding such a range and maturity as it does. It is perhaps unsurprising then that at times, despite mostly strong performances, certain areas of the script, meaning and intonation were lost in transit.
Crimp’s technique of having characters talking in the third person, initially throwing out ideas and sentences like a writing brainstorming session before settling more into defined roles, is similar in style to his other works Attempts On Her Life and The Treatment, and it is engrossing to watch a single actor use an anonymous series of characters to flow through a dichotomy of different states and thoughts. It can be tempting though to simply speak rather than act the more obscure lines, perhaps out of a lack of thought or assumed technique.
Of the actors from the University of Hull only Catherine Pugh seemed to have a confident grasp on the more subtle areas of the script. Her ability to sink further and further into the emotional state of the mother in Whole Blue Sky, her variation in character and reactions to the events going on around her separated her from the other three actors.
David Moss had some interesting moments as a man who calmly walks into a school and executes a group of children, trying to re-tell and remember without being prompted by the others about his despicable act, but it felt like there was so much more that could have been brought across, a more in-depth investigation into the mindset of the man who is driven to atrocity by a mundane suburban existence that was missed out on much of the intensity and tension of the scene. The same can be said of Jessica Clark, who had a great singing voice and portrayed the more obvious side of her characters ably, but left me sitting there screaming, ‘Give me more, take me further!’ in my head which proved frustrating.
Despite this reticence towards pushing themselves as far as possible, images such as the final one of a child with a shattered hip pathetically crawling up some stairs, described as the actors stood on a blood splatter of stage, were well put across and the majority of the show was slick and involving. It serves to show the real challenges of pulling off such a difficult script even with a group of talented actors.
On a personal side note, I would like to thank whoever’s decision it was to choose Kyuss’ Gardenia as the opening track. All the shows I’ve seen so far have gone with contemporary music that seems to mostly involve high pitched morse code rambling bass and hearing one of the greatest rock songs ever made me happy straight away, even if it was completely out of context with the mood of the show. Perhaps if Josh Homme had been playing guitar during the Going Postal Blues in D Minor song it would’ve have been loved by more people.