Ed Fringe 2019: Fulfilment at Underbelly, Cowgate
If you’ve ever flown into a fury because your Amazon next-day delivery didn’t materialise, Fulfilment will make you hang your head in shame. This prescient piece of theatre by company SharkLegs boasts puppetry, intense physical stamina, copious audience interaction and a message for our moment: that convenience comes at a price and that it’s too easy to turn a blind eye as big business puts profit over staff welfare.
The star of the show is Robox, a puppet made of cardboard packaging and operated via the Bunraku method by three puppeteers. They’re a winsome little thing, and manipulated very capably, with stompy feet that leap from box to box, and cardboard coil arms that stretch to great lengths, and an adorable habit of storing audience information with a “pop”. As the show builds to its climax, the way we perceive Robox takes a dramatic shift…
Interlaced with verbatim accounts from current and former Amazon fulfilment centre workers, this is a horrifying presentation of a real-life scandal. Workers selecting our Fitbits, plant pots and camping equipment are set impossible targets, not given proper breaks and dissuaded from joining unions. It’s hell.
The spectator has no excuse for ignorance: stories broke a while ago that lifted the curtain on the misery of Amazon’s fulfilment centres. It was reported that it’s common for staff to urinate in bottles to avoid falling below productivity level while on the long trek to the toilets.
The genius of Fulfilment is the way it sucks its audience into its happy world of customised recommendations and convenience: a veneer of progress and wholesomeness. Why shouldn’t we have what we want immediately? But behind that veil there’s an ugly reality: desperate workers trapped in a system that doesn’t care about them. This is one of those rare shows with the power to effect change. Bravo, SharkLegs.
Photo: Tom Ziebell
Fulfilment is at Underbelly, Cowgate from 9th until 25th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Read more reviews from our Ed Fringe 2019 coverage here.
For further information about Edinburgh Fringe 2019 visit the festival website here.