Friday, 26 May 2017

War in America

Former Royal High School, Edinburgh
Four stars

“The state does not commit terrorist acts.” So says Mr Fox, the thrusting home secretary of an un-named European government in Jo Clifford's attempt to cut through a make-believe sham of so-called democracy. Clifford does this by making the situation critical, so both powers are divided, not by political parties, but along gender lines. Even here, alas, while the carefully styled She appears to be strong and stable, it is the spin doctoring duo of Ms Warp and Ms Webb who pull the strings.

As Saskia Ashdown's She pulls off her blonde wig and kicks her power heels away, Clifford strips back the public image to get to the messed-up human within. As the new woman-only authority attempts to court the youth vote as well as their weaker male contemporaries, She is in pieces over her estranged activist daughter. While older members of the House are haunted by ghosts, Andrew Cameron's Mr Fox unwinds by exploring the limits of real freedom through kinky sex with Imogen Reiter's foreign prostitute.

Although Clifford's play was written in 1996, watching the youthful and hopefully still idealistic Attic Collective company premiere Susan Worsfold's production this week, when atrocities close to home have left us reeling, is an at times chilling experience. This is made especially so seeing it performed in the debating chamber of what might have ended up as the home of the Scottish parliament. If the sight of a pair of machine-gunned SAS types is scarily prescient, as the cast of eighteen unravel the play's multi-faceted Greek-styled spectacle of public ritual, a spiritual dimension emerges that becomes an urgent plea for humanity.

The Herald, May 29th 2017

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