Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 08:22 UK

Fringe focuses on harsh realities

By Nigel Wrench
PM programme, Radio 4

Gary Faulkner in The Factory, recreating a Nazi death camp
Gary Faulkner in The Factory, recreating a Nazi death camp

Harsh reality - from a Nazi death camp to passenger jet emergencies and the 7/7 bombers - is taking centre stage at the Edinburgh Fringe, which opens officially this Sunday.

You'll still find the usual Fringe mayhem among the record 2,088 shows at 247 venues.

There is Pot Noodle the Musical for instance, Why I Ate Charles Dickens and as many stand-up comedians as you can stomach.

But there is also Charlie Victor Romeo, its title taken from the call-sign for CVR, Cockpit Voice Recorder.

The show has been a big hit in America where it was first performed in 1999.

The script comprises word-for-word transcripts from black box flight recorders, and an award-winning sound design surrounds the audience with noise from the flight deck.

Irving Gregory, one of the show's creators, said: "We're not out to frighten people but we'd certainly like their attention."

The show could hardly be more topical after the emergency on a Qantas flight over the South China Sea last week.

If that experience is not harrowing enough there is The Factory, performed to a standing audience in an old beer cellar.

The piece aims to recreate the gas chambers at Auschwitz/Birkenau during the Second World War.

A woman pleads with other prisoners as they are led down to the gas chambers, the audience among them.

Steven Lambert, who devised the show, said: "One of the ideas behind it is to give a reality to violence.

"One of the things that happens through television particularly is that we view violence in a very abstract way, as something that doesn't really involve pain and suffering and fear.

"Creating this experience in this venue gives us the opportunity to explore violence and allows the audience to experience violence in their face."

At the Traverse Theatre the new play Pornography, by the award-winning playwright Simon Stephens, dramatises the days before and after the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005.

The writer said: "The pornography of the title is a metaphor. The play is about the culture in which the 7/7 bombings took place.

"It's an attempt to dramatise the idea that the boys who attacked London on that day were, rather than being alien or being monstrous or being separate from the England which they were born and raised in, were actually a product of that England."

The Fringe continues until 25 August. The question now is whether festival-goers will flock to performances that aim to leave them with a furrowed brow rather than a wry smile as they walk out of the theatre.

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