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San Diego

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow
Four stars

Things have probably changed in the American limbo-land that inspired David Greig’s sprawling search for truth since it was first staged by the Tron Theatre at the Edinburgh International Festival sixteen years ago. However San Diego’s physical landscape worked out, one suspects the collective existential crisis portrayed by the play’s cabin-load of lost souls looking for somewhere safe to land hasn’t got much better.

No matter, because there is hope in Mark Thomson’s revival, performed here by final year BA Acting students, who themselves are about to spread their wings and move into scarier climes. For one thing, at least Greig is still with us, despite writing himself into his own play as a geeky tourist and then bumping himself off in a moment that sees the criss-crossing narrative strands fleetingly converge.

Moving at the pace of a Wim Wenders travelogue and just as fascinated with America, the play’s set of estranged secular rituals sees everyone onstage struggle to believe in both themselves and something beyond. Thomson’s cast of eleven grab hold of the play’s complex set of ideas with an intelligent relish as they move through the open doors of designer Gilly Slater’s strip-lit constructions.

Among a roll-call of fine performances, Bailey Newsome’s David Greig is a Harry Potterish swot, Caleb Hughes a Pilot with no direction and Felixe Forde a quietly determined Daniel, the Nigerian runaway in search of his errant mother who may or may not have sung backing vocals on Band of the Run by Wings. Most moving of all is the relationship between Sorcha Kennedy’s Laura and Rowan Smith’s David, so by the end you’re willing them to survive.

In a global village where conformity is signalled by an endless line of women named Amy, and everyday tragedies are worth much more than disaster movies, Greig’s play shows how travel can alienate as much as broaden the mind. The result is a painful but ultimately optimistic flesh and blood dreamscape of the lengths we’ll sometimes go to in order to remind ourselves we’re alive.

The Herald, May 30th 2019

Ends


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