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Book of Exodus 1 a slow rising of the waters towards finale
Book of Exodus Part I is the beginning of the end – the first in a two-part performance, and the finale of Fraught Outfit's Innocence Trilogy. This particular part of the trilogy focuses on the biblical Book of Exodus, as two children try and document the violence inflicted on their people. The play opens with a stage covered in rubble, as a stirring begins and a child dressed in an old woman's mask and shawl emerges, followed by another. They shuffle across the stage in the way of children imitating the elderly and proceed to turn on a video camera, projecting onto the wall behind them.
This slow, meandering pace continues for much of the show as the children embark on the process of self-consciously recording their journey. They are glancing behind them, making sure they are in frame, turning the process into a ritual. There is very little text spoken, bar an excerpt from the titular Bible passage – this is one of the most arresting moments of the play, the violent, wrathful language providing an interesting juxtaposition with the gentleness of the performers. At the centre of Book of Exodus is the relationship between two young children, and the two performers on opening night had great rapport and stage presence. The relationship between them felt natural and believable, with no hint of the breathless jazz-hands aura that sometimes radiates from child actors. One of the strongest elements of Book of Exodus is its design, particularly the set by Kate Davis – a towering polystyrene wall and debris; it is transformed by Emma Valente's lighting design and continues to reveal itself throughout the course of the play. Max Lyandvert's subtle sound design is also a highlight, though it does not cover the squeaking sound of polystyrene which can become tiresome.
Fraught Outfit should be applauded for trusting young performers to tackle sophisticated concepts throughout their Innocence Trilogy. Children growing up today are not the first generation to feel like they will witness the end of the world, but for this current generation, there is an immediacy and inevitability to that sensation. Book of Exodus trusts children to be able to grapple with these feelings and uses a theatrical medium to express them. It also trusts its audience to make meaning of the images on stage with little signposting, the kind of play that usually requires a bit of quiet reflection afterwards to really get something out of it.
If Part I was the build-up, the slow rising of waters, only time will tell what is in store for Book of Exodus Part II, starting October 17 2017.