Theatre

‘The Kettling’ at the Edinburgh Fringe review – Protest play is pretty packed

★★★

Hungry Wolf Visionary Youth Theatre cram a lot into their heated and rapid production of The Kettling, a drama in which a group of young climate protestors are trapped in an enclosed space by police inside as a form of crowd control. Naturally, emotions soon run high as a myriad of colourful characters clash.

There’s an indication that Kelly (Elise Donoghue), with her aid worker girlfriend Hope (Ava Pavlo-Ruffell) in Calais and the gentle suggestion she’s the organiser of the demonstration, is our protagonist trying to keep the peace. We’re told, after all, that it is a non-violent protest, even if one of the placards visible on stage issues the threat to decision makers that they will “f*** u up” if they don’t take action on global warming.

Playwright Katherine Manners clearly wants to explore all the nuances of the climate debate in a 50-minute running time: posh and smartly dressed violinist Alex (Oscar Piatt) is an obvious commentary on the typical class divide the issue creates; Liam (Fin Royle) believes the more provocative and violent approach is necessary; and the abrasive Jolene (Hannah Norton) embodies a more selfish view of the conversation which fails to recognise its sheer magnitude.

Yet with Manners trying to cover so many characters and their subplots, they each don’t have much time to shine. Roman, who suffers from anxiety which gets particularly bad during the protest, gets little development. There’s a hint that Liam and Jolene like each other too beyond being ‘best mates’, but that doesn’t progress much further.

The youngsters all raise one question as a whole: what is the most productive use of anger in the context of protest? It’s a curious one only just hinted by The Kettling which is ultimately buried and underdeveloped due to subplots. The idea, much like the young activists enclosed in such a tight area, just needs the space to breathe.

The Kettling is now playing at the theSpace on the Mile, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022, until 14 August.


Production Images: Sam Cartwright.

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