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Review: Peaky Blinders comes to the Edinburgh Fringe in Tobacco Road, Pleasance #edfringe

Incognito Theatre’s style is to blend segments of more conventional dialogue with movement and it is the latter which impress

Incognito Tobacco Road Tim Hall
Incognito Theatre Company - Tobacco Road. Photo: Tim Hall Photography

If you’ve watched Peaky Blinders then with Incognito Theatre's Tobacco Road you’ll be on familiar territory.

The real-life, Birmingham-based gang whose world is depicted in the BBC TV series is not only name-checked but so are several other characters.

Tobacco Road is set in London between the wars and charts the rise and fall of the Tobacco Road gang from their early days involved in petty theft and organised fights to large-scale organised crime and hedonistic notoriety.

Incognito Theatre’s style is to blend segments of more conventional dialogue with movement and it is the latter which impress.

From a boxing ring sequence to bar brawls and nightclub revels, each is brought evocatively to life with skilful and imaginative choreography.

At the start is it two female gangsters that are on top, using their brains as well as a bit of brawn and running rings around the more muscle-heavy local male gang.

They join forces to further both gangs' ambitions but somewhere along the way, the power balance seems to revert to the familiar man at the top calling the shots and leading them into trouble.

Both the men and women are trying to find their place after the horror and trauma of war, seeking a better life under more of their own control, with wealth and recognition. A life away from the toil and grind of being working class. 

But while there are hints of back stories and individual motivations, the characters are painted in quite broad strokes which results in a lack of emotional traction.

There is cleverness in the presentation and the story is satisfying enough but if you are a fan of Peaky Blinders the play doesn't offer any extra insight into the period, mindset and challenges.

Having said that, I’d definitely like to see what else Incognito Theatre can do, there is an interesting performance style there that I’m sure will develop and flourish.

Tobacco Road is Upstairs at the Pleasance Courtyard until August 27.

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