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‘There is an immediacy which pulls you into the action’: GRIP – Reading Fringe (Online review)

Filmed in 360 (by LIVR) at the Tristan Bates Theatre, and made available for free, Grip is produced by Nothing to Perform for the digital Reading Fringe.

Presenting a “real-life recollection”, Trev finds himself just waking up, and the story goes from there. Written by Scott Howland (who also plays Trev) and directed by Harriet Taylor, Grip meets the ethos of the company in presenting new writing and themes of mental health and working class voices.

The 360 filming is something I have struggled to click with, as on a phone the moving of the device can cause distracting angles, and on an ageing laptop there can be buffering issues in full screen.

However, technical issues aside, there is an immediacy which pulls you into the action. Trev and his father are alpha males with emotional inhibitions which stop them fully engaging with the themes of loss, and exploring issues around sexual trauma.

With stage directions, sound effects, and a sense of dingy atmosphere, the world of Grip feels authentic and the scene changes are quickly and expertly done, keeping the audience engaged.

The writing is of a high standard in most places, although now and again it heads into macho cliches around #MeToo and the character of Louise (Emily Brown) feels a tad one-dimensional. I wanted more from her character.

Grip is a perceptive title which both refers to how Trev slowly loses his grip on his life, and how the production seeks to grip its audience. To look at issues around anxiety, misogyny, sexual consent, and the toxic male gaze is brave, but becomes occasionally preachy rather than fixing its flag to a progressive view.

In 58 minutes you can only explore so far, and Howland’s script is certainly ambitious in its scope. That it doesn’t quite get there fits with its structure of “glitches, skips and repeats” in which Trev’s universe becomes tighter, smaller, and more disturbing.

Characters repeat lines together, talk over each other, comment on asides. Sometimes the sound is overwhelming, with music and chat obliterating lines. You, as audience, hear what you want to, and process it as you wish.

Not for the faint-hearted, Grip is worth a look to consider what it adds to a constant contemporary debate. It is available for free once you have registered for the Reading Fringe.

Find details of the show here.

Donate to the artist here (via LIVR).

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