Note: This review is from the 2023 Fringe

Concerned Others is the latest production from leading Scottish theatre company, Tortoise In A Nutshell. Specialising in working with puppets and animation, they have turned their hawk eye to the topic of addiction. Scotland has one of the highest levels of drug-related deaths in Europe. In this new show, the company employ an incredible range of technical wizardry to explore what we can do about it.

Visually, this show is stunning. A single performer uses an array of screens (Lewis den Hertog) to present an army of miniature figures that he tracks through their tiny landscape with a camera to explore the role that alcohol and drugs have come to play for so many people. An incredible scene with masks unpacks what self-stigma means in practice. Personal stories are interspersed with commentary about the societal context that leads so many people to addiction as a way to cope with their lack of opportunity and creator Alex Bird takes pains to point out that this isn’t exclusively a problem for people living in areas of deprivation: this is society-wide.

Effectively, this is verbatim theatre as Bird has constructed the script from a collection of interviews assembled through his research. The interviews are knitted into an eerily discombobulating soundscape that contributes a brooding menace throughout. The complexity of the production is breathtaking for a Fringe show and Bird appears to cope with aplomb.

It’s easy to point the finger, Bird notes. To assume that addiction is something that only happens to someone else: someone weaker or less able to cope. The resounding message of Concerned Others is this is a situation that anyone can find themselves in, that’s created by our society – and if we genuinely want to make a difference, we can all take an active role in tackling it.

Concerned Others runs until Sun 27 Aug 2023 at Summerhall – Demonstration Room at 14:45