Skip to main content

The Tree of Knowledge

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
Enlightenment comes in many forms in Jo Clifford's parable-like
fantasia, in which David Hume and Adam Smith wake up in the
twenty-first century, where the results of their philosophies are in
freefall. Their world in Ben Harrison's wide-open production is
designer Ali Maclaurin's brutalist breezeblock rotunda on which
blueprints for assorted tomorrows are projected, artless and without
centre. Their guide is a working-class woman from Fife called Eve, who,
arguably like all of us, began life with a false sense of optimism for
a future that never quite became the brave new world it was supposed
to. As Smith painfully discovers when he embraces new social freedoms
with the zeal of a convert, in a corupted free market economy, even sex
is flogged off on the cheap, cold and loveless as it goes.

Gerry Mulgrew's Hume and Neil McKinven's Smith first come to life on
comfy chairs, as if beamed down to some celestial salon in Edinburgh
New Town. Joanna Tope's Eve appears like a guru in a 1960s style chair
suspended from the sky by an umbilical cord that connects her to the
universe. Seemingly in purgatory, no-one is afraid to acknowledge the
audience, who sit in judgement of a series of exchanges that move from
accepted truisms to wise confessionals about the power that comes
simply from people opening up to one another.

Arriving somewhat presciently during what looks dangerously like
capitalism's last gasp, Clifford's meditation starts off with an
irrepressable waggishness grabbed hold of by a pop-eyed McKinven. By
the end, however, it's become a slow-burning totem of universal hope in
a messed-up world.

The Herald, December 12th 2011

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Suzy Glass – Message from the Skies

Freedom of movement matters to Suzy Glass, the arts and events producer currently overseeing the second edition of Message from the Skies.This animated literary derive around the city forms part of this year’s Edinburgh’s Hogmanay programme, and runs right through till Burns’ Night. Glass’ concerns are inherent in the event itself, which has commissioned six writers from different disciplines and experiences to each pen a love letter to Europe. Each writer has then paired up with a composer and visual artist or film-maker, with the results of each collaboration projected in monumental fashion on the walls of one of half a dozen of the capital’s most iconic buildings.
With venues stretching from the south side of Edinburgh to Leith, and with one city centre stop requiring a walk up Calton Hill, there is considerable legwork required to complete the circuit. It shouldn’t be considered a race, however, and audiences are free to move between venues at their leisure, visiting each site on d…

Kieran Hurley – Mouthpiece

Things have changed since Kieran Hurley first began writing the play that would become Mouthpiece, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this weekend. At the time, Hurley was, in his own words, “quite new on the scene.” As a writer and performer, he had already scored hits with Beats and Chalk Farm, two pieces that put him on the map with a new generation of theatre-makers steeped in an equally new wave of grassroots opposition that drew from the iconography of revolutions past. Where Beats looked at the politicisation of 1990s club culture, Chalk Farm, co-written with AJ Taudevin, focused on a teenage boy caught up in the 2011 London riots.
More plays followed. Some, like Heads Up used the same solo story-telling aesthetic to look at an everyday apocalypse. More recently, Square Go, written with Gary McNair, dissected toxic masculinity through a school playground fight.
All the while as Hurley developed as a writer, from new kid on the block to established provocateur, this…

Rob Drummond – The Mack

Rob Drummond was at home in England when he looked at the news feed on his phone, and saw a post about the fire at Glasgow School of Art. It was June 2018, and the writer and performer behind such hits as Grain in the Blood, Bullet Catch and Our Fathers initially presumed the post was to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2014 blaze in GSA’s Mackintosh Building, which was undergoing a major restoration after much of it was destroyed.
As it turned out, the news was far worse, as reports of a second fire were beamed across the world. As someone who had taken Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic construction for granted while living in Glasgow, Drummond was as stunned as anyone else with even a passing relationship with the Mack.
While emotions continue to run high in response to the disaster, Drummond channelled his thoughts on all this into what he does best. The result is The Mack, a new play that forms part of Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint lunchtime theatre season in Glasgow prior …