Monday, 15 September 2014

New Works 2014

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars
It is an inspired idea, having young drama students on the verge of
going out into the world work with seasoned professional playwrights to
develop brand new works that stretch the talents of all involved. So it
is with the three new short plays by Clare Duffy, Jo Clifford and
Isabel Wright performed and directed as a series of double bills by the
graduates of the Royal Conservatoire Scotland 's MA Classical and
Contemporary Text course with support from Playwrights' Studio Scotland.

Clare Duffy's 1914 Machine starts off looking like a girl's own
adventure yarn, as female spy La Marquise flies across the English
channel to deliver secret war plans to the government, and ends up
lurching into a science-fiction future in which everyone communicates
through screens. Inbetween, La Marquise flies high with a pre-war
bohemian set for whom she supplies cocaine and some stolen radium that
might just hold the key to the future.

  As the drugs loosen lips and minds, in director Paul Brotherston's
hands, the hyper-active rubbish spouted by all resembles a
sub-Chekhovian student party which his cast grab at with suitable
abandon. By leaping time-zones, Duffy creates a timely meditation on
the ever-encroaching pervasiveness of technology that looks to E.M.
Forster's short story, The Machine Stops, in a lively joining of the
dots between past, present and future.

Even more playful is Jo Clifford's White Ted and the Right To Die,
which looks at the whys and wherefores of euthanasia in a day to day
environment. That Clifford does this through a teddy-bear narrator and
a dog called Benji who returns as a ghost after being put down adds a
humorous heart to a very serious subject. There is too the conflicted
views of the same person represented here by two actors in Jessica
Aquila Cymerman's production, which starts off with the cast in
overalls as if checking a crime scene for forensic evidence before
revealing themselves. With some neat shadow-play, there is an appealing
warmth invested into a life and death situation that's much more than a
shaggy dog story.

Where Duffy and Clifford offered up fantastical world-views, Blind Eye
by Isabel Wright looks to an all too contemporary scenario of spin for
inspiration. As a politician and his wife turn to the ultimate PR firm
to give them a boost, an activist infiltrates the company as an intern
in league with a reporter who takes an even more gung-ho approach to
exposing scandals both political and sexual. Out of this comes a
political thriller that looks at how lies are dressed up by managerial
sleights-of-hand that can and do turn every misdemeanour into a
positive.

In Wendy Turner's production, Wright's series of short scenes flow into
each other with a full sense deal-making intrigue before chaos reigns
as all are exposed. The end result is a dramatically stark and
healthily cynical look at how the world is being run right now behind
doors which, for most of us, remain very firmly closed.

The Herald, September 15th 2014


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