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Sticks and Stones review at Roundabout, Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘incisive satire’

Words can hurt. In Vinay Patel’s sharp, smart satire about our culture’s increasing vigilance when it comes to matters of language, B uses a word as part of a misfiring joke to which her colleagues take offence. It didn’t offend them personally, they explain, but it can be offensive to some people and therefore they deem it offensive. The situation rapidly escalates. B undergoes intense sensitivity training. Her job comes under threat. People with extremist views leap to her defence.

We never hear the word in question. It’s left to our imagination. In its place there is a flashing light and a hand gesture. This use of gesture to underscore or replace certain words continues throughout the piece. Choreographed by Jennifer Jackson and Simon Carroll-Jones, the play starts to morph into dance-theatre. The performers pull faces, contort their bodies and manipulate their limbs. They spend a lot of time on the floor. It looks exhausting. It’s supposed to.

Katherine Pearce, as B, and Charlotte O’Leary and Jack Wilkinson, as the various colleagues and HR bods that B encounters, give highly physical performances. Director Stef O’Driscoll works them hard but sometimes this obscures the incisiveness of Patel’s play. It’s a fluid piece of writing that explores the subject from numerous angles and asks numerous questions, while entertainingly skewering corporate jargon and shifting sensitivities.

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Verdict
Incisive satire on shifting sensitivities surrounding language

Production

Production
Sticks and Stones
Venue
Roundabout, Summerhall
City
Edinburgh
Starts
August 2, 2018
Ends
August 26, 2018
Authors
Vinay Patel
Director
Stef O’Driscoll
Lighting
Peter Small
Sound
Dominic Kennedy
Stage manager
Caitlin O’Reilly
Cast includes
Charlotte O’Leary, Katherine Pearce, Jack Wilkinson
Producer
Paines Plough, Theatr Clwyd
Running time
1hr 10mins