Skip to main content

Not About Heroes

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars


You can hear the bombs from the off in Philip Howard's touring revival of Stephen MacDonald's play focusing on the relationship between poets Siegried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen while incarcerated in what in 1917 Edinburgh was Craiglockhart War Hospital. As they sound, the two men face each other at opposite ends of Kenneth MacLeod's abstract, marble-patterned set, being dressed in the formal trappings of a military uniform that may give them standing, but which will keep more
personal feelings thoroughly buttoned up.

As these two shellshocked casualties find common ground after being thrown together, fanboy Owen gradually grows in stature as the emotionally stunted man who becomes his mentor opens up a whole
new world for him before the inevitable occurs.

It's easy to make such a portmanteau piece look small, but in Howard's hands for this Eden Court Theatre, Inverness production, MacDonald's play is lifted out of its own seeming stiff-upper-lipped roots and invested with a theatrical richness that gives it gravitas and depth. This is done in part  by a use of choreographed movement overseen by EJ Boyle which puts flesh on the horrors of Owen's dreams to accentuate the futility of war.

Central to the production's over-riding intensity are the performances, and, as the poets, both Ali Watt and Thomas Cotran lend Sassoon and Owen an uptight vulnerability and sheer human frailty that clearly fuelled their art. A fascinating addition too comes by way of the third figure of an officers' batman who seems to be a perennial spectre from the trenches, a piece of silent cannon fodder caught in the crossfire so these great men's elegies could take flight.

The Herald, October 13th 2015


Ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Two sisters sit in glass cases either side of the stage at the start of Eve Jamieson's production of Jean Genet's nasty little study of warped aspiration and abuse of power. Bathed in red light, the women look like artefacts in some cheap thrill waxworks horror-show, or else exhibits in a human zoo. Either way, they are both trapped, immortalised in a freak-show possibly of their own making.

Once the sisters come to life and drape themselves in the sumptuous bedroom of their absent mistress, they raid her bulging wardrobe to try on otherwise untouchable glad-rags and jewellery. As they do, the grotesque parody of the high-life they aspire to turns uglier by the second. When the Mistress returns, as played with daring abandon by Emily Winter as a glamour-chasing narcissist who gets her kicks from drooling over the criminal classes, you can't really blame the sisters for their fantasy of killing her.

Slabs of sound slice the air to punctuate each scene of Mart…

Phoebe Waller-Bridge - Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is a busy woman. The thirty-two year old actress who burst onto our TV screens as writer and star of Fleabag, the tragi-comic sort of sit-com about a supposedly independent woman on the verge is currently overseeing Killing Eve, her new TV drama which she's written for BBC America. As an actress, Waller-Bridge is also filming a big screen project which we can't talk about, but which has already been outed as being part of the ongoing Star Wars franchise.

These are both pretty good reasons why Waller-Bridge won't be appearing in the brief Edinburgh Festival Fringe revival of the original stage play of Fleabag, when it opens next week at the Underbelly, where it was first unleashed to the world in 2013. In her place, Maddie Rice will take on the role of the potty-mouthed anti-heroine after touring Vickie Jones' production for Waller-Bridge and Jones' DryWrite company in association with Soho Theatre. This doesn't mean Waller-Bridge has turned…

The Divide

King's Theatre
Four stars

Everything is black and white in Alan Ayckbourn's new play, a six hour two part epic set in a dystopian future where men and women are segregated from each other following the aftermath of an unspecified plague. Into this landscape, the secret diaries of brother and sister Elihu and Soween are brought to life by Jake Davies and Erin Doherty with a wide-eyed lightness of touch as their hormones get the better of them when they both hit puberty.
Annabel Bolton's production for the Old Vic, EIF and Karl Sydow begins with a TED Talk type lecture that reveals the back story to how things turned out this way. It ends with a sentimental love story designed to tug the heart-strings. Inbetween, there is teenage rebellion aplenty against the regime's institutionalised repression. Liberation comes through art and sex, which, in such extreme circumstances become even greater life forces.

With both plays told through the siblings' diaries alongside ass…