sat 22/06/2024

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: The Insider / Sensuous Governing | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: The Insider / Sensuous Governing

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: The Insider / Sensuous Governing

Two strong shows in the Fringe's #DANISH strand offer financial temptation and otherworldly interactions

Intimate but claustrophobic: Christoffer Hvidberg Rønje is trapped in a perspex box in The InsiderJens Peter Engedal

The Insider, ZOO Southside 

Uncovered and investigated in 2017, the Cum-Ex scam was a complex tax fraud that stole billions from the coffers of several European countries. Its principal was simple (well, fairly simple): companies would claim tax refunds on dividend payments for shares apparently owned across several territories, and therefore theoretically taxed more than once. The reality, however, was that the shares had simply been loaned, then returned: smart lawyers and accountants had discovered a loophole for claiming back money that had never been paid in the first place.

If that sounds forbiddingly dry and complex for a piece of theatre, then – yes, in many ways it is. So it’s to the credit of Aarhus-based company Teater Katapult and writer Anna Skov Jensen that they transform the tale of murky financial transactions and muddy legal arguments into something immersive and properly compelling.

Christoffer Hvidberg Rønje gives a gripping and intensely physical performance as a nameless, ambitious young lawyer sucked into this world of high stakes and big rewards. We follow him into clandestine meetings, noisy nightclubs, even into the shower as he’s enticed by payments in the tens of millions for his expertise and his loyalty – until he turns informer, slowly and sometimes grudgingly revealing the scheme’s details to police interrogator Anne Brorhilker, voiced by Marion Reuter.

"Voiced" is correct, since Hvidberg Rønje is the only actor on stage, confined within a claustrophobic perspex box that serves as interrogation room, dancefloor, bathroom and more, his every movement – a rasp of pen on paper, a scrape of a chair on the floor – closely miked and conveyed to the audience through binaural headphones. It adds up to an intense, surprisingly intimate experience that brings us up close with the protagonist’s dilemmas and increasing complicity, and with his slippery interactions with shadowy kingpin Hanno Berger (voiced resonantly by Benjamin Kitter).

There’s not much at stake, truth be told: though there are suggestions of the man attempting to escape his provincial Danish origins by adopting a kind of brutal financial/social Darwinism, we’re not given many insights into his motives for turning informer, nor into the fallout from that decision. But The Insider is more a show about immersion and immediacy, about being brought up close with the seductive greed and glamour that inspired his involvement, and the icy austerity he experiences as a result. It’s a mesmerising, visually stunning examination of avarice, temptation and loss, one that’s just as seductive as the forces it portrays.

Sensuous GoverningSensuous Governing, Summerhall @ Danish Consulate 

When you leave this show, doesn’t the world feel – well, frighteningly fast? Even using the word "show" doesn't feel right: Sensuous Governing is more of a participatory ritual, taken at a glacially relaxed pace (think two hours of placing your feet millimetres in front of each other to walk, with other gestures and movements similarly decelerated), one that invites a wholesale reappraisal of our relationship with the world, each other, our emotions and desires.

Or at least that’s what it feels like. There’s always the nagging suspicion that it might all be a send-up. Apparently not, though, according to the self-declared manifesto and politico-cultural aims of Copenhagen-based artist/activists Sisters Hope, who created the experience. And as was also evidenced by the sheer level of care and detail devoted to the event.

Veiled, bell-carrying acolytes welcome you – one by one, of course – into their West End home, where black and white cloths are ceremonially tied, water and rocks are ritually dispensed, freshening odours waft past you, and a hypnotic chant seems to emanate from every closed door. It’s undeniably disconcerting, and would probably feel quite spooky if it wasn’t for the strange intensity and warmth of those guiding you, and the encouragement to slow down, breathe deeply, and feel.

Sisters Hope’s aim, their website declares, is to explore ‘a potential new world arising from the post-economical and ecological crisis’. There’s little in Sensuous Governing that does anything as vulgar as referring directly to capitalism or climate collapse, but there’s something profound and interesting going on here all the same, a provocation to take their slow, graceful, fragile (and deeply strange) beauty seriously, and an invitation to explore an entirely new and unfamiliar manner of engagement. In conventional terms, there’s not much going on. But in terms of surrendering control, allowing intimacy, and acknowledging fresh methods of experience, it’s a challenging but inspiring proposition.

  • Run finished
The Insider is a mesmerising, visually stunning examination of avarice, temptation and loss

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