Note: This review is from the 2015 Fringe
Photo: Steve Ullathorne

@ Summerhall, Edinburgh, until Sun 30 Aug @ 18:10

Abacus is a big and grand performance. The Main Hall at Summerhall can barely contain the two large screens that are at the back of the performance space. At the beginning of show the screens display black and white television static. This gradually transitions to present “fictive public intellectual” Paul Abacus (a creation of Lars Jan of Early Morning Opera). The audience views Abacus walking through the long corridors of Summerhall until he eventually enters the theatre space and the show begins.

Paul Abacus is hounded on stage by two dexterous cameras which are operated by two individuals, who at times become part of the performance. Their presence gives emphasis to the main performer and heightens his presence on stage. The show itself is a lecture, presented in the style of a motivational speech. Paul Abacus passionately and persuasively delivers his views on culture, international borders, boundaries and self realisation. The persona is one of an evangelical guru. He comes over as untrustworthy fanatic and this makes it difficult for the audience to endear to him.

Throughout the performance the video screens project motion graphics, moving images, animation and live feeds from the two on stage cameras. Abacus is always the focus of attention though, with his bright personality grabbing the spotlight. Early Morning Opera clearly have big ideas and the ability to present them. Visually Abacus is stunning and thoroughly enjoyable. The onscreen imagery is engrossing and skilfully presented. However, the overall story and narrative journey is unappealing and at times feels long and arduous.