Fringe Review: In A Thousand Pieces

A relentless hour of top-notch theatre...

A hit of the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Paper Birds bring their newest work, In A Thousand Pieces, to Prague. The three incredibly talented performers create a visually and emotionally arresting theatrical experience examining the sex-trade industry in Britain. Based on countless hours of research and development, the trio presents the story of an imagined young woman from an unspecified Eastern European country who arrives in London with £10 and dreams of storybook Britain. Following her journey through losing her passport, kidnapping, enslavement, fifteen hundred (1500) brutal rapes and moments of solace and despair created by an ice cream cone, this purposefully fractured, disconnected experience somehow makes total sense and leaves you asking all the right questions. It is a highly theatrical and potent production and one that skillfully treads the line of both inviting and implicating the audience. Framing the action throughout is live piano music whose discordant beauty at once heightens and softens the brutality. The women are excellent physical actors and mimics. Their reenactments of taped interviews of everyday people discussing the sex-industry are both horrifying and hilarious. The most powerful moment in the show is without question the dramatization of the first brutal rape—underwear down at their ankles--the horror of rape and all its many implications left the audience collectively shattered. The only time the production ever loses its subtle edge and veers into anything preachy is in a final direct address monologue involving the statistics of the rape. The piece would have been more powerful with just those numbers shared in silence and not the accompanying speech explaining their meaning. At this point in the evening we get it. But that minor point aside, this is a relentless hour of top-notch theatre and one of the best, if not the best, Fringe show of the year.

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