Skip to main content

Mouthpiece

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

If genius steals, how do you split up the loot? That’s just one of the questions that Kieran Hurley pins to the wall in his new play for the Traverse, which dissects both the culture and class wars alongside the eternal contradictions of both. Under-achieving Edinburgh writer Libby is about to make the ultimate dramatic gesture when she is saved by Declan, a teenage boy from the housing schemes with a raw artistic talent that enables Libby to get her mojo back. Everything, alas, is material, especially Declan’s life.

The psycho-sexual tug of love that follows makes for the perfect final gift from the Traverse’s outgoing artistic director Orla O’Loughlin. Her production takes a daring leap through the fourth wall of Kai Fischer’s framed black-box set to question who exactly owns the stories that shape us. Stage-directions are projected onto this interior, both from Hurley’s actual play as well as Libby’s soon-to-be-devastating work-in-progress.

Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh bring enough dynamic light and shade to Declan and Libby’s increasingly ferocious sparring, so things never feel heavy-handed in what initially looks like a gender-swapped Pygmalion or Educating Rita. Driven by Kim Moore’s burbling electronic score, Hurley takes things further, so the play becomes a wrestling match for the soul of a divided society in which art imitates life imitating art in a safe space where everyone likes a bit of rough.

While there are moments you wonder what any of this means outside the theatre world’s concerned but cosy bubble that those both making and watching the show exist inside, this is at least part of the play’s point. If a real-life Declan gate-crashed a real-life Libby’s moment of triumph as he does here, chances are he’d be out on his ear within seconds. Such are the terminally unresolved challenges Hurley raises in a show where every person in the room becomes complicit in using Declan and Libby’s stories for our own thrill-seeking ends.

The Herald, December 7th 2018

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 …