EdFringe review: The Rotting Hart

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once again, the wife steps in with a review. Invited to an additional performance of “The Rotting Hart” (26th August at the Scottish Storytelling Centre), I took up the opportunity while Will went to see Cliff Richard—apparently, Cliff’s first-ever Fringe visit. The play’s tagline, “A new queer horror,” instantly piqued my interest—I’m a sucker for suspense and fresh writing. Worth noting: I ventured into this without reading the play’s description on the EdFringe site.

The play was performed in the smaller and more intimate setting of the George Mackay Brown Library in the Scottish Storytelling Centre. The room, dimly lit by red lights, has a tangible sense of unease as you enter. Daniel Orejon, the star of the play, is already in place, writhing and muttering to himself in a sing-song voice. Each seat bore a programme, with instructions for the audience to refrain from reading until prompted.

Orejon’s portrayal is nothing short of powerful. Armed with just chiefly a chair, and his undeniable talent, he brings to life multifaceted characters, each carrying their own weight, showcasing the depth of his writing and acting abilities.

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The staging for the Rotting Hart is simply a chair and Daniel Orejon’s talent. Image courtesy of Molly Wilders.

The narrative offers an atmospheric suspense, focusing on the budding relationship between its central figures. The dynamics vividly depict the gradual transformation of the characters into roles of hunter and prey, a physical manifestation of their internal conflicts and struggles.

The monastery, steeped in symbolic undertones, would have been a more fitting setting for the play’s central intimate scene. Using it might have anchored the subsequent events more effectively. For those, like myself, who approached the play guided only by its tagline (or perhaps they just forgot the detailed premise of the play), the cascade of events was challenging to decipher. My understanding only crystalised after revisiting the play’s description the next day—a clarity I wish I had experienced during the performance itself.

Within this tumultuous sequence, the scenes with the father and the dogs were particularly striking. They brilliantly captured the character’s profound turmoil and confusion, serving as poignant highlights amidst an otherwise hastened conclusion.

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The recurring historical context, highlighting Spain’s prejudices, provides a stark contrast against the play’s narrative. It yanks us back to our reality, confronting external judgments, even as the central character remains largely oblivious. As for the lighting, a dimmer ambiance during the play’s action would have enhanced the mood, but keeping it consistent for readability is a practical choice.

It must be noted that Orejon deftly sprinkles dark humour through the play, bringing some lightness in the shadows without detracting from the depth of the narrative.

In wrapping up, “The Rotting Hart” is an evocative reflection on relationships, societal biases, and inner turmoil. While it’s a mesmerising experience, there are moments where the narrative’s clarity dims. However, it is clear that Orejon’s Crested Fools, in collaboration with Fronteiras Theatre Lab have crafted something truly unique. I’d highly recommend catching it in Dundee in mid-September, or wherever it tours next. Don’t miss this opportunity.

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