The next show by In Bed With My Brother, Tricky Second Album is raving and angry and ferocious and angry and anarchic and ANGRY. Maggie Kelly reviews - did she mention that it's angry?

How do you review a piece of protest?

How do you review a valid piece of protest that is protesting something valid and that is also a piece of theatre?

How do you say you didn’t like it while liking everything it stands for?

In Bed With My Brother have created a non-brand, an I-don’t-know-how-to-make-a-brand brand, with Tricky Second Album. Nora Alexander, Kat Cory and Dora Lynn are openly, publicly, a bit of a hot mess – but their acceptance and exploitation of this fact is thrilling.

Tricky Second Album Pleasance Dome
In Bed With My Brother (image courtesy of Matt Austin)

Tricky Second Album feels dirty. Much of it is brilliant – the wild atmosphere, the furious political daggers hurled at polite middle-class theatre, the shriek against things that should be done onstage. It’s anarchic and furious and everything for which the company behind We Are Ian is renowned.

Tricky Second Album Pleasance Dome
In Bed With My Brother

But something doesn’t fit. Projected feedback from one of the piece’s R&D showings are polite but annoyed, feedback that asks the team why they burnt the profit made from that very showcase onstage. The company respond with fire, asking how to draw a line between paper money and the things it buys.

If they had bought ten toasters and smashed them during the show, would that have been acceptable?

If they had spent it on another microphone dangling from the ceiling (in a throwback to the We Are Ian lightbulb), would that have been acceptable?

Cory lists the amount of money each part of their setup cost, each part of their budget for the Edinburgh Fringe. They say they couldn’t afford flyers this year because of those escalating costs.

So ‘burning money’ on creating art, on going to the Fringe itself, is that acceptable?

Tricky Second Album Pleasance Dome
In Bed With My Brother

But something doesn’t ring true, something seems insincere. Perhaps it’s as simple as flyers being one of the least expensive parts of the Fringe budget and yet one of the most important. And there is a gripping image already attached to Tricky Second Album on the Fringe website. So why not take eighty quid off the tech expenditure and print some flyers? It seems an odd part of the budget to decide to cut down on.

And that may be a stupid, irritatingly small point to give a shit about. It feels petty to even write about it. But it’s an example of a claim made in Tricky Second Album not following through, a claim that feels it has been constructed simply to fit the point of the show. And this sense of constructed anger, anger that may have been streamlined or carefully crafted as part of a non-marketing strategy, sours proceedings.

Tricky Second Album Pleasance Dome
In Bed With My Brother (image courtesy of Matt Austin)

There is also no further exploration of some interesting other themes touched upon in the show, no dissection of their value within the Fringe ecosystem itself.

Maybe that’s what it’s about. Maybe anger for anger’s sake is enough.

Maybe it’s a battle cry about the right to be selfish, the right to not follow themes in the show through, to not have to explore or detail,

but just to speak,

the right to be angry at an industry that’s exploitative and expensive and abusive and the right to be shit and feel shit and to be ANGRY and to not know what you’re doing when you’re onstage and for that all to be OK, actually.

Tricky Second Album Pleasance Dome
In Bed With My Brother (image courtesy of Matt Austin)

But Tricky Second Album doesn’t go far enough. It relies on shock factor to get its point across, but then doesn’t delve into the detail at all. In staying at surface level, the show goes from what could be a multi-faceted howl of rage to something that feels a bit hollow.

Yes, it’s hard to stage an act of protest within a structure that encapsulates the very subject of the protest.

And yes, In Bed With My Brother make valid, furious points that embody a communal rage.

Tricky Second Album is easy to love. It’s not easy to like.

★★★☆☆

Tricky Second Album is now playing at Pleasance Dome until 18 August 2019. For more information or to buy tickets, please visit the festival website.