Walking Home is a show that asks and answers the question ‘why are you scared?’ An important and impactful look at harrassment, harmful relationships and staying safe while walking home.
The repeated motif of the shoes on the floor throughout was fantastic imagery. Each time this reappeared they added new elements to progress its own narrative, which stood well within the piece. Sometimes the transition into it felt like a longer wait, but perhaps worth it. The lights shining on the shoes, and the way it was orchestrated by the cast was well thought out, and the gasps and shock from the actors added everything, making these small glimpses into something intriguing and, at times, distressing. Further in the piece it comes full circle, and hammers home the idea of the piece.
When colleague Clara doesn’t show up for the first meeting of the day, people start to worry about what happened to her the night before, whether the date/restaurant review went horribly wrong. This is soon speculated to be true when an email arrives from HR. This email acts as the way into the narrative, a trigger point to start the conversation. As a spark to start the show it felt a bit rushed, the characters immediately jumping to the fact that Clara must be associated with this, when I believe more naturally there would be some push back to this, or would take a while to lead to this conclusion. However, I always appreciate the tight hour of the Fringe means these things need to jump in quickly rather than allowing themselves room to stew.
From this point we are introduced to our characters more, four people working for a magazine publication including an arts and culture reviewer, a fashion writer, and the head of politics. The roles are well defined and easy to spot with the way the actors hold themselves, their costumes, and the natural and easy conversation around their work. I appreciated the set up and easy timeline of the piece, keeping the conversation in the office, rather than messy set changes or making it run across multiple days, it suited it well.
Each character truly had their stand out moment, elevated by an incredible cast of actors, as we venture through how this event affects them in different ways.
The first (played by Zoë Alba Farrugia), is enraged by the event and disappears inside her own mind to her ‘red room’. This Jane Eyre reference to the red room stands out as a place to allow the character to feel enraged and aggressive in her emotions internally, because externally it is frowned upon. The surrounding cast become caricatures moving mechanically as she talks through her rage. Zoë Alba Farrugia plays this perfectly, allowing the anger and frustration to overflow to the audience, who she refers to as the people in her head. This is where we encounter our first piece of audience interaction which comes back again in different styles later in the piece. She asks us to raise our hand and keep them up for yes and down for no. The questions are impactful and insightful, as we were encouraged to look around the room I felt a real twinge in my heart. It is a reminder that the topics covered aren’t just fictional but incredibly real, you aren’t just watching a show you are watching people’s true life events. I really loved the rage and frustration that Farrugia brought throughout the show, she embodied the voice of every woman who has been through something similar, or who is scared they will be next, of every person who has ever watched the news and felt sick at the social media updates of women’s rights and safety. I saw myself in the character, inflamed and enraged but with no outlet, feeling like you are screaming into the void so you keep it all internal.
Next, a monologue from the fashion writer of the magazine (played by Sean Borg). I liked that men aren’t excluded from this conversation. That may seem like a small, or obvious thing, but often with topics that affect women or people of marginalised genders, or where men are often the perpetrators, it’s easy to remove them entirely and paint them as the villains. I was interested to see where their part of the conversation would sit in the piece, and I wasn’t disappointed by it. This monologue talks of how we should all do more, how it should have been noticed or caught earlier by the people at work, how they are all a little bit at fault. He talks of a memory from childhood, regressing naturally from performing as his character at present age, to acting like a young boy. He makes contact with the audience as he reveals the narrative of this memory. This surreal and dream-like state offers another chance for more audience interaction, which took my breath away. I worry that this moment (no spoilers for what it is) could be harsh or triggering if the actor picks the wrong person, but it holds such a high level of impact on the rest of the audience, I couldn’t ask for it to be taken away, just that you don’t sit front-row if you are worried.
The arts and culture writer is played well (by Alex Weenick). Early on you see his nervousness and concern around the conversation, and you find out why he is asking so many questions later down the line. There are a few moments where his answers to questions don’t seem as believable, which is expertly performed to compliment later revelations. This section really centres men in this conversation, while using the background characters to still push that this isn’t about them, that they can be concerned and upset while still trying to be better. Everything said is critiqued by the others to emphasise points and elevate the conversation, propelling the character to express more of what he is feeling in words. Things like “I cant even ask a woman if she wants a drink anymore” takes the time to be explored and respoken so instead of presenting himself as the victim he is looking at everything deeper. This is the moment it felt we were going beyond the surface with this character and really finding out more, while it also drove the narrative forward.
There are sections where we move away from Carla’s story and fall into the everyday, which feels like the perfect demonstration of how quickly issues of harassment and assault get brushed away or covered up, especially in a professional capacity. It amplifies the societal idea that we are all meant to just work through whatever is happening, private or personal. These moments are pushed forward by the character who operates as head of politics (played by Michela Farrigua). She has been stewing, trying to get everyone to focus on the task at hand, keep work conversations going, and make the environment calm. But after all of this, when other characters start to leave she opens up to the audience, and herself, starting to share. The stand-out moment from this show is this final monologue. This element showed that most women who have experienced these things keep it to themselves, that they don’t want to talk about it, or feel that they can’t. The actor eased her way in to it and then let her emotions explode, the words and performance were truly beautiful and brought a tear to my eye. I felt so connected to this character, and felt her pain as she talked through how we have always fought for more, how we can’t fight back, and how her story connects to all of this. The performance is breathtaking. This leads up through our final part of audience interaction which teaches a lesson so important. It was such a powerful moment as the character looks to us with tears in her eyes. The begging and asking for help, for a voice, for an answer, is so clear in the performance by Michela Farrigua, and I have never seen something so powerful and true as this moment. When she talks about doing better for her sons, to teach them well, to never let her daughter walk home alone or find herself in a taxi alone and drunk at night, I realised how important this piece is for everyone to see. The impact of this is immense.
I also found it so interesting that despite all of the conversations about how everyone could do more, it was still the two women who checked in on Carla, and made plans to support her that evening with food and company, not the men. This spoke so strongly, and opened more questions of whether the event was going to insight change in the characters lives, or it would all fall back to normal. In this conversation no one is perfect, no one is always right or doing the correct thing. I liked that every character had something to learn or change.
The lack of recorded sound didn’t go unnoticed and worked well to amplify the actors and narrative. It didn’t need music, songs or transition sound, the actors filled the spaces perfectly themselves. Having no entry or exit music was an active choice, it allowed the audience to know they were in for a heavy performance, and sit with that once the piece was finished.
This show is curated so well by Prickly Pear Theatre. They worked with 40 plus real stories from various charities and organisations to accurately tell the story. They used these to make an impactful narrative surrounding harassment and how this affects people, they compiled and researched to make their story a well-rounded and honest portrayal. I appreciate the way they announce the trigger warnings for the show ahead, and that the audience are welcome to leave and re-enter (and where they can do so) at any time if it becomes too heavy. The way that the team prioritises looking after their audience, amplifying useful tools, and highlighting important organisations like Strut Safe made the experience feel careful and necessary.
The actors of Walking Home are skilled, passionate and powerful. They deserve so much support for this masterpiece. I would recommend it to everyone, as it is a story that needs to be heard by everyone, so we can all learn how to be better.
If you feel unsafe walking home Strut Safe operates from Friday to Monday and you can call them any time. They want to open Monday to Thursdays too but need the support of more volunteers to allow this operation to run, so if you can please get involved.
You can catch Walking Home at Gilded Balloon Teviot – Wine Bar until August 28th (not the 21st) at 17:30. Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.