When you first arrive in the theatre for writer and director Kat Woods’ ‘Peru Two’ inspired play Mule, there doesn’t really seem to be much to it. The venue is small, perhaps one of the most intimate hosted by the main Fringe organisers. Onstage there are just two chairs, along with a projection of a scrolling messenger or text chat between two sisters, one of whom is has found herself at a loose end in Ibiza; from there the play begins. To be entirely honest, for the first fifteen or so minutes of the production I wasn’t particularly convinced. The play’s cast of two are forced to swap between several characters, who I never felt really achieved traction; sometimes they felt like caricatures, and at other times the sudden changes were just a bit distracting.
Having said that, it didn’t take much longer for me to be pulled into the drama of the performances and narrative. Both actors, Aoife Lennon and Edith Poor, delivered hugely engaging performances, made all the more impressive by the necessary range between their different roles. I may not have been entirely convinced by all their portrayals, but where roles felt caricatured they were short lived, and ultimately the emotional weight of the central few roles greatly overshadowed any faults in the more minor ones. As a result of this, the actors were able to bring humanity to two figures who the media and public have often represented and misrepresented, but rarely treated fairly.
I hadn’t heard of the ‘Peru Two’ before seeing the play, and so had no idea if the vitriolic newspaper headlines and comment sections that were projected through the performance were real or not. That did not hinder their effectiveness, however. Working in tandem, the real life vitriol of the projector and emotional turmoil of the performances deliver a powerful message about the way the media can mistreat people, and the suffering uninformed public conversation can cause.
Mule is not a play entirely without fault. However, what faults it has are greatly overshadowed by the strength of its core performances and conceptual weight. Working with very little, Kat Woods has managed to create a very compelling show, one that certainly deserves more attention than it has received at this year’s Fringe so far.