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Heartlands

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

When Charlie met Mari, they could've changed the world. That's not quite the case in Dave Fargnoli's two-handed rom-com presented by the young Urban Fox company, but it would make a great tag-line, worthy of both the movie that's just made Mari a star, and for the high-profile charity that Charlie fronts so successfully. It could only be used, alas, if the former teenage activists who got sucked up in a world of spin, soundbites and hard sell can survive the online meltdown that might just destroy them both.

As the first of the Traverse's week-long Hothouse season of work by locally sourced grassroots companies, Fargnoli's hour-long play opens with the couple on the run to an isolated cottage and already at each others throats in Amy Gilmartin's neatly minimalist production. As the pair rewind to their first meeting manning the anti-war barricades and beyond, we see how their mutual idealism became corrupted by a barrage of twitter-storms and online campaigns where genuine protest used to be.

As depictions of first world problems go, there's a lot going on in Fargnoli's deft cut-up of gradual personal and political unravelling that reveals Charlie and Mari as two sides of the same scratched coin. As portrayed by Joe Johnson and Clare Ross with an understated warmth that never allows things to become too angsty, it's a portrait too of the all-pervading burl of twenty-first century life for high-flyers in a fast lane where ethics are a luxury all too easily ignored. As Charlie and Mari find out the hard way, it's only when you get lost, it seems, that you discover the moments that matter.

The Herald, November 12th 2015

ends

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