Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – until 25 August 2019
Only in Edinburgh could you stumble into a 10am show and be confronted with bodily mutilation, paedophilia and enough artery spray to make Tarantino proud. Who needs that double espresso shot when shows like Meghan Tyler’s Crocodile Fever exist?
Coming across like a Martin McDonagh jet black comedy mixed with just a dash of Dali’s more surrealist imaginations, this dramedy is set in County Armagh in 1989. We first see Alanna fastidiously cleaning her sink and burning her incense stick to hide the smell of the cheeky cigarette she stress tokes fervently. Her ordered life is set to be shattered when younger sister Fianna bursts through a broken window.
The sisters couldn’t be more apart, for all that Alanna is emotionally coiled up, Fianna matches as a ball of frenzied energy, returning to the family home after 11 years after spending a long stretch inside. These sisters may start at different ends of the spectrum but in the brilliantly realised performances of Lucianne McEvoy, (who ends the piece resembling the blood-soaked Carrie whose VHS presence is felt ) and Lisa Dwyer Hogg, showing the pain that her edge tries to hide, these differences are soon seen as opposite reactions to the hatred both feel for their repellant father, bed-bound upstairs having been crippled by ‘the Para’s’.
As the sisters begin to work through their differences and the drinks begin to flow, an act of revenge is committed and then the grotesque Jacobean leanings really begin to take shape. If you wonder where the title of the play comes from, it’ll be realised before the end in a wonderful coup-de-theatre that is both absolutely ridiculous and yet strangely appropriate.
Director Gareth Nicholls has cut his teeth on theatre that pushes it’s sensibilities to the extremes after Ulster American and he balances its wild arc here. Unit by unit it turns ever more poetic so that by the time its ramped up to its heightened total theatre extremities it doesn’t come across as absurd as it might.
The Traverse is the true purveyor of guaranteed fringe quality, evidenced by it’s sold out, early morning crowd. Crocodile Fever harks back to the glory days of in-yer-face theatre when Ravenhill and Kane were running wild, yet Tyler has a take uniquely her own.