Neither Here Nor There, created and hosted by artists Jo Fong and Sonia Hughes, is simple, beautiful, and wholly unexpected. In some ways, it is exactly what the Fringe should be, while simultaneously its antithesis.
Initially, the hosts take the prospective audience around the venue, introducing themselves before heading inside. There is no stage, just small tables and snacks nearby. The group, roughly a dozen of us, split up among various tables and sit down to grapes and orange juice. Not entirely sure what was happening, we make small talk, and suddenly a bell rang.
“That was just six minutes,” says Hughes. She lays out the format: six-minute periods in which we would simply converse. She takes the next six minutes to lay out her thoughts, not fully formulated, some simple observations, others deeper and more primordial. The bell would ring another dozen times before we walked out of that room. During some of that time, we converse normally. Others, we would be told we had a whole six minutes to fill up ourselves. Once, nobody spoke, but everybody listened.
It’s amazing what you will entrust with someone who moments ago was a complete stranger. I found myself telling one person about my struggles with depression. I listened as someone else told me about her struggle to simply find the energy to empathize in such a dismal world. Time flowed quickly and yet not at all.
Looking back on the time we spent in there speaking and listening, understanding and giving, I find myself more and more impressed with how well constructed the show was. Fong says the show is inspired by “the idea of slowing down, taking time and listening. The work encourages the hearing of many voices, of forming understanding and the suspension of judgement or assumptions.” Every small thing, from the short walk to start, to the unassuming food on the tables, even the phrasing of each prompt — all ever so deliberate, a planned ritual to disarm you, lower your walls, and allow you to fully engage with the show.
Neither Here Nor There is a refreshing break from all the chaos of the Fringe. It is a refreshing break from all the chaos of your own life. It teaches us that we can find common ground more easily than we might think, it teaches us the greatest stories are often untold, and perhaps most importantly, it teaches us the art of listening. One gets from the show only what one is willing to put in. It might not be for everyone but if any part of this review spoke to you, I strongly encourage you to find a time to attend. Neither Here Nor There is unexpected in all the right ways; it is brilliant and loving, it is nourishment for the soul, it is the absolute best of what humanity is.
Neither Here Nor There is on at Summerhall – Courtyard
At 19:15 until 25 August. (1.5 hours)
You can buy tickets here.
Photo Credit: Lidia Crisafulli