Concept For a Film – Assembly Studios

Second Body – Concept for a Film, Assembly Studio 4, Edinburgh, 17th Aug 2022 © 2022 J.L. Preece

We’ve all had those nights, especially the ex-film students among us, those nights of a few drinks, some nibbles, perhaps a few extra flavourings, and thought the same; this film idea could change the world. The difference being, following a run during the pandemic, Max Barton sought to make this a reality. Weaving together experimental sound design, stripped-back theatrics, and exposed autobiographical elements with mycology, Max and their friend Jethro have created through their own Concept for a Film. A collaboration to uproot the interconnectivity of the world and a civilization on the precipice of self-inflicted devastation.

In attempting to blend such diverse and unique elements, the resulting product should be an utter mess. Should be. But isn’t.

In fact, it’s rather brilliant.

There have been disaster movies where plants fight back, where sharks fight back, even one where killer tomato fight the French – but everything we see this evening comes from the idea Barton has concerning a film where fungi fight back. Juxtaposing it with Barton’s father’s recent Leukaemia diagnosis and the infusion of outsourced fungi immune system advancements, the levels of dexterity and medium of performance for Concept for a Film make it a highly personable and engaging piece of…theatre? Experimental theatre? Soundscape?

Whichever you prefer, there’s no escaping the influences of the world of cinema, particular Propp’s character/narrative theories and Richard Power’s The Overstory. Concept for a Film may ask audiences to place themselves in the central role, but this is Barton’s experience and the struggle to align themselves with nature, rather than a Westernised system of linear, causal narrative.

Jethro’s musical control and technique are a foundation for the production – both in its visual symbology, as wires root themselves across the stage, the synthesized sorcery created by the audience’s humming a perfect backdrop for the show. Blending, splicing, and alternating the notes we create into all manner of sharp counterpoints and more aggressive, horror-stricken moments of fear.

And though more akin to a scientific experiment of sounds and music, Barton never drops the performance element. Largely due to the more natural delivery style they possess, much of the audience interaction never feels forced and welcoming. We’re as much a part of the development of this story as they are.

A two-hander of a show, which infuses the climate crisis with an ethereal soundtrack formed live onstage, Concept for a Film is one of the marvels of the Fringe’s breaking of moulds. While it isn’t pushing boundaries, it is certainly leaping over the ones set in place as it blurs any visible lines of screen and stage. Barton’s masterful storytelling is what holds the connections together, aided by the system of twisting and towering gnarled and intricate wiring. Subverting expectations, and opening up to audiences, this experimental mycology film borrows from the finest assets of traditional media, garbing it in something fresh, unique and sophisticated.

Breaking the mould

Further information about Second Body and Concept for a Film may be located here.

Photo Credit – J.L. Preece

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