Edinburgh Fringe: Slavery show to shock audiences

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A SHOCK Fringe show which sees audience members led into a room full of naked black men is set to become one of the most controversial performances of the Festival.

The work of German artist Gregor Schneider, Süßer Duft – or Sweet Scent – is said to be aimed at making an “intense and profound” statement about racism and slavery.

The art installation at Summerhall has been described as an uncomfortable but “unforgettable” experience.

Reactions are so far said to have ranged from tearfulness to complete bemusement.

Curator of the show Paul Robertson said: “It’s a wonderful installation and one which works on so many levels – Schneider is one of the most influential installation artists there is.

“We really tried to keep this one under wraps.

“Everyone who comes to this installation will react to what they see in a different way – it will be different if you are a woman, or if you are black.

“Summerhall is absolutely committed to the anti-slavery and anti-racism message and Schneider’s piece is something that really brings that home.”

When the Edinburgh Evening News headed to the installation, our reporter was led down the steps to the basement of the building.

Only one audience member is permitted in to the show at a time.

A security guard, who communicates by radio to ensure only one person is within the exhibit, announced a list of rules before the door to the first room was opened.

The installation can be viewed by over-18s only due to its nudity and viewers – who are reminded they can leave at any time – can stay for no longer than five minutes.

On opening the door, the audience member is confronted with a narrow, white corridor lit by strip lighting.

A door at the end of the corridor leads to a white empty room which is blindingly bright. In contrast, the final room has dark walls and, in an apparent reference to a slave ship, resembles an old shipping container. Within it, ten black men are completely naked.

In silence, they move uncomfortably in the bleak room and are not allowed to speak to audience members or communicate in any way.

The actors, some of whom are students, are working five- hour days for the performance. The show runs until August 25 and is open from 1pm to 6pm every day.

Mr Roberston said: “It deals with preconceptions of white and black, and, as an experience, people will find it not comfortable, but unforgettable and intense.”

He added: “So far, people who have seen it have got it.”

Schneider, who is known for creating artworks which resemble architectural installations inside traditional galleries or museum spaces, has tackled controversial or taboo subjects in the past.

In 2008, he became embroiled in controversy after saying he wanted to create a space in a museum in which people could die.

Legal threat is no joke

A COMEDIAN set to perform at this years Fringe has been threatened with legal action if he steps on stage.

Matt Price, 38, of London, wants to base his show at The Hive, scheduled to begin on Monday, on an ill-fated comedy tour he, stand-up Dave Thompson, who played Tinky Winky in Teletubbies, and Jason Manford’s comedian brother Colin, took on in Turkey.

He explained: “After six weeks of no payment, increasingly badly attended gigs, and one evening where we genuinely feared for our lives, we decided to come home.”

However, Spotlight Comedy, the company who organised the gigs, have threatened to sue Matt for breach of contract.