Skip to main content

What Shadows

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

The sound and thunder of some very English and very heavy weather opens Chris Hannan's play, that puts real life disgraced Tory MP Enoch Powell at the heart of a debate about whether our differences can ever be reconciled. Powell, of course, was the bi-lingual, classics quoting scholar, whose so-called rivers of blood speech in 1968 was a dog-whistle to the sort of legitimised intolerance which has looked creepingly familiar of late.

One of those who suffered is Rose, the woman of colour who grew up conscious of Powell's demonisation of her kind. As played by Amelia Donkor, Rose turns out to have a few prejudices of her own, even as she forms an unholy alliance with Sofia, the right wing academic she usurped. Moving between the late 1960s build-up to Powell's speech and 1992, Roxana Silbert's new staging of her 2016 Birmingham Rep production frames the action against Ti Green's tree-lined urban idyll and monumental concrete walls. Louis Price's impressionistic video projections set a tone that might be called elegiac if its subjects weren't so alarmingly current.

Ian McDiarmid gives a bravura turn as Powell, leading a cast of seven as a die-hard sentimentalist who weeps at King Lear and who, more amusingly, might these days be labelled a grammar Nazi if nothing else. It's a big, wordy, important play. Ideas of belief, intolerance and faith, no matter how corrupted, ping pong their way after some kind of reconciliation. When McDiarmid performs Powell's actual speech at the close of the first act, it's electric enough. It's his unrepentant stance at the play's end, however, that flags up a form of England's dreaming that lingers still.

The Herald, September 14th 2017

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 …