Rocky! The Return of the Loser at Edinburgh Fringe Online
Like all other theatre events this year, the Edinburgh Fringe has had to move its rich and varied programme onto a digital platform. New works are being uploaded daily on the ZOO TV website for the duration of the festival. While it is disappointing that the physical event cannot go ahead, this is a great opportunity to catch many fresh and innovative performances from your home.
The Danish production Rocky! The Return of the Loser is a politically charged play written and directed by Tue Biering. The piece begins with Morten Burien addressing the audience and introducing the central character of his speech who is none other than Rocky Balboa –the protagonist of the infamous 1976 action film. The speaker explains what he likes about the movie and begins to go through the story and introduces its characters. He is fascinated by Rocky’s zero-to-hero ascent, even though he himself comes from a very different, more privileged background. Burien describes the protagonist’s challenging childhood and how boxing became Rocky’s main hope and ambition when he found himself struggling academically.
The rags-to-riches fairy tale then begins to take a darker turn as the narrator describes Rocky becoming aware and taking an interest in what happens around his neighbourhood. Rocky notices people from other countries coming to live there and being financially assisted by the government. He starts developing nationalistic feelings towards them and decides that people like himself need to be protected. He gathers youngsters who share a similar background to him and feel the same sense of anger towards these supposed “outsiders”, and gives speeches inciting division. Suddenly, the ambitious underdog that one would naturally root for becomes a villain, but he gathers more and more supporters as he moves forward.
What begins as a relaxed social commentary eventually escalates into a visceral and graphic expression of anger and exasperation. The raw elements (including a mutilated pig carcass, red paint and animalistic noises) capture what words cannot describe. While the play becomes more intense as it progresses, the tone is rather monotonous for the most part and not as engaging as it could be considering its strong content. A monologue requires great presence and charisma to keep the audience glued, but the storytelling is not as captivating as the feelings that gave birth to the piece, and this comes to the surface intermittently. Nevertheless, this is a powerful production that successfully captures the current political climate. By using the figure of Rocky and distorting it, the production demonstrates how anger coupled with a loud voice often seems to go much further than reason.
Rocky! The Return of the Loser is at Edinburgh Fringe Online from 18th August until 28th August 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.