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Ma, Pa and the Little Mouths


Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

Home is a dust-laden fortress for the ageless couple at the heart of Martin McCormick’s new play, a tragi-comic leap down the rabbit hole of what passes for domestic bliss in a place where time seems to have stopped in a pre-mobile phone age. With their windows curtained off to the outside world and the piled-up debris of a life alone together piled up around them like the contents of a bombed-out junkyard, Ma and Pa’s world is enlivened only by a mess of egg custards and a fridge full of tinnies. That and an unspecified and possibly unreliable set of memories that hint at a past gone mad only brought out into the open by the appearance from the bathroom of seemingly normal female stranger, Neil. What follows is a riot of survival strategies dressed up as old school social club cabaret.

McCormick’s most ambitious play to date is rich in chewy non-sequiters that make for a set of wild and ear-poppingly baffling one-liners that almost sing in their understanding of everyday private languages between increasingly desperate co-dependants. Presented by the Tron in association with the National Theatre of Scotland, Andy Arnold’s production heightens the play’s dark ridiculousness to the max. This is enabled even more by the tilted mani of Charlotte Lane’s set, which carpets its simple living room with a post-apocalyptic greyness given an all-consuming wide-screen treatment.

As Ma and Pa, Karen Dunbar and Gerry Mulgrew are an elliptical mix of vaudevillian surrealism writ large, with Nalini Chetty’s Neil making for the most reluctant but all too necessary audience to their well-worn barbs and routines. When the real world comes crashing in, it’s as if a nuclear blast had reignited life yet to come in a living comic strip that is both brutal and troublingly hilarious.

The Herald, May 7th 2018

ends

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