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Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
Paul Higgins’ new play begins with a fanfare, as if angels were about to storm the gates of heaven. As it is, each member of the Conlan family enters their tenement living room with a blasphemy, damning themselves first, then each other. Johnny’s deep in debt and dragging sister Cath down with him. Mum and Dad are mourning the death of their youngest daughter in their own ways, and Patrick arrives home early from the seminary with a confession of his own brewing. Between them all they’re putting their faith in booze and prescription drugs to pull them through. Sometimes, though, even they’re not enough.

On first glance, this final contribution to the Traverse/National Theatre of Scotland mini season of new work appears to be wall to wall misery. The litany of self-loathing that punctuates each line recalls the most old-fashioned kitchen-sink social realism, with its prodigal’s return theme looking to David Storey’s In Celebration. Yet John Tiffany’s production is leavened somewhat by its heightened playing style. In this respect, its near neighbours look like The Royle Family or Shameless before self-parody took over.

It’s a rough-edged affair, with Ryan Fletcher’s Johnny a haunted figure, full of disappointments. In other hands, John Wark’s Patrick could have been made a broodingly intense saviour. Here, though, he’s flawed, awkward and vaguely ridiculous. Carmen Pieraccini’s Cath is a lost innocent, but its through Gary Lewis’ Dad and Susan Vidler’s Mum we see where the collective hand-me-down pain is rooted. It ends, as it has to, with a prayer. Whether anyone is saved, however, is something only those who make it to the next life will know for sure.

The Herald, November 24th 2008

ends

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