REVIEW: Fulfilment, Edinburgh Fringe 2019 ★★★★☆

Do you want to feel theatrically fulfilled? Then you should go see Fulfilment at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Thanks, I’m here all week (and next week too).

The political winds are changing, and it’s become more common for people to consider the ethics of their lifestyle habits, whether it’s cutting down on meat and dairy, walking more and driving less, or buying from retailers not named Amazon. Jeff Bezos is the richest man alive, but Amazon is renowned for dodging its taxes and forcing its staff to work in miserable, punitive conditions for low-pay and no rights.

But, equally, sometimes it’s just convenient to have something delivered within less than 24 hours. Sometimes you need a product quickly, or it’s not available in the local shops, or you’re on a low income and the cheap prices which Amazon offers make the difference between being able to afford a luxury this week or not (or even the basics, like food). Even in these circumstances, are you endorsing the working practices of Amazon? What are you to do if you have little choice but to partake in Amazon’s monopoly across the global marketplace?

SharkLegs Theatre Company has taken this ethical dilemma and transformed it into Fulfilment – a show which is half puppet comedy with audience interaction and half dark drama about the life of a woman who starts work at Amazon. It’s funny and disarming in equal measure, although the division of comedy and drama works less well than was likely intended, making it difficult to ascertain whether the audience should be laughing at the puppet that is Robox, an Alexa-esque personal robot assistant who only wants to make your dreams come true (and also marry an audience member – during this performance, at least).

But perhaps that difficulty was the point, as people struggle to answer whether they can take pleasure from a corporation’s output while distancing themselves from its darker inner workings and role in the world. It’s not a question that Fulfilment has the answer to, but that doesn’t matter, because nobody does.

The physicality and puppeteering of the three performers – Claire Parry, Phoebe Hyder and Ronan Cullen – is excellent (as is Jimmy Grimes’s design of Robox itself, looking exactly like how the next evolution of Alexa could look); one would think their bodies flowed as a unified force, a hivemind (much like the workers at Amazon, in all probability). Their turns as Amazon staff are equally impressive, bringing the audience with them to understand the intense stress and pressure the workers are put under, with no hope to be found. The fact that every scenario comes from people who have worked in Amazon warehouses and ‘fulfilment centres’ makes it all the more compelling – and depressing.

Fulfilment is performing at Underbelly, Cowgate from August 1 – 11 and 13 – 25.

Filmmaker. Casual Reviewer.