Review: Scott Wings previews Icarus Falling in Melbourne before Edinburgh Fringe

Review by Armand Petit

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Scott Wings’ one person (yes person, not man) show ‘Icarus Falling’ is a magnificently crafted, abstract exploration of both the ancient Grecian myth and the field of mental illness. Right from the beginning it was made clear that this was going to be a generous performance as Scott quite literally launched himself into the story. With a pretty demanding pose as well. The stage was virtually naked and the props, which consisted of a hip flask and chair, were rarely used. And despite the minimalism of the set or its contributing tools – the visual sparsity was all compensated for by the physicality and willingness of the performer embracing his characters and painting his world into existence. Icarus, Daedalus, the tower, the labyrinth, the sky, the ocean – it was all there. All easily imaginable through Scott’s description, his fantastic exploration of space and unabashed use of his body and voice.

There is a certain liberating whimsy that a viewer gets to experience when seeing Scott spin a yarn. It is not all highly polished, perfected elocution and traditional stage methods. It’s more like watching a kid at play, building a universe in their bedroom with such conviction that it’s really hard to not just buy into it. Their enthusiasm is infectious and you follow without question. However, with the added touch of seriousness this performance involves, Scott has managed to strike a pretty solid equilibrium between that fancy-free playfulness and the often self-destructive introspection of those who’ve outgrown LEGO and Play-Doh.

Side Note: For those of you over 20 that still play with LEGO and Play-Doh! You rock my world, but I’m sure you get my point.

Those who haven’t seen him on stage before may find the switches between character and narration a little jarring at times. There are also some relatively confronting lines and themes some may find offensive. Be it because they were insensitive or maybe a little too close to home – some cringes were definitely present in the room. When a performance poet delivers something this personal that is structured in a format of real life meets myth (and has no costumes, make up, backdrops or other cast members) it can be difficult to segregate what portions of the content belong to which character. Or whether it is a perspective of the poet themselves. Or if an emphatic and obscene gesture/comment was an absolute belief of the narrator or simply used to draw a reaction and provide the characters with more personality.

For the most part, and I would say about 95% of the show, these things were pretty evident. But I’ve got the upper hand of being theatrically trained and having gone to quite a number of these kinds of shows over the years. I’m just saying there may be a few odd punters, having just wandered in or been brought by a friend, which might take stuff personally because the seams between narrator, characters, folklore and personal observation/experience may blur now and again. And by “now and again” I mean very rarely. These blurs however, can make observers feel Scott is an asshole and some of his views are callous, misogynistic, homophobic, selfish and remorseless. Just know that if you take it that way and leave feeling pissed off with Scott, than you’ve forgotten the theme of this performance. Which is a young man at odds with his world, in a mode of self-discovery and haunted by his past mistakes. Could Scott do a little more to make that clearer? Possibly. But then the art becomes obvious and formulaic and we would no longer be entitled to a wider scope of interpretation and possibly, more individual response.

Leaving the transitions aside, I felt that the selection of his pieces and how they were interwoven into the set, along with the clear juxtaposition of the narrator’s opposing attitudes, managed to pull us through so many altitudes of the complexities of human emotions. A wonderful intersection of both harrowing yet hopeful was found where Scott set himself a seemingly impossible task and soared through a series of intimate and gripping moments.

As a sufferer of mental illness, this is an area that constantly sparks my interest. I have witnessed a number of performers take on this subject and provide something either vague or somewhat narcissistic and just a bit alienating. Speaking to them afterwards, a lot of them initially set out to make the audience feel included but did feel that the focus failed to communicate links between the two worlds. Scott Wings’ particular production was one I found incredibly raw, unapologetically honest and deathly accurate as to what it is to carry the burden and wear the stigma of manic depression.

To see ‘Icarus Falling’ is to witness a man that removed all defences and invited perfect strangers to have the potential to trudge through a highly personal landscape of shadows and reality, conflict, doubt, mistakes, self-loathing, anguish, love – and be left to judge. Such things take immense courage to not only create, but to share. And Scott has blessed us (and soon the Edinburgh Fringe Festival) with a gift of truth and beauty that is so otherworldly yet often unknown, unexplored and within us all. I will be seeing it again when he returns from Scotland. And I urge you all to do the same. If not for the mind-bending alternate take on the story, then at least to observe the possibilities of performance theatre and poetry delivery when limitations have been dismissed.

The author of this review would like to acknowledge; Hares & Hyenas (venue), Ebony MonCrief (MC Duties), Kudos (talent), Jacky T (talent) and Jamie Kendall (talent). All of who played an integral role for the event and are most definitely worth checking out.