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Roman Bridge


Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
There’s something of the Wild West in Martin Travers’ brutally intense 
play that is the flagship production of the National Theatre of 
Scotland’s Reveal 2012 season of new work. It’s not just the long 
leather coats and customised bowler hats that give Amanda Gaughan’s 
production the sort of rough-shod stylistic trappings that Sam Pekinpah 
would be proud of. As the play’s quartet of transients seek sanctuary 
in the gloom beneath a crossing they’re seemingly destined not to make, 
it’s the sense of a frontier lost to things not of their own making 
that gives it such a widescreen feel.

All the more remarkable, then, that Travers has set his brooding tale 
of bargains made and secrets spilled in rural Lanarkshire in what he 
calls ‘another Scotland’. It’s a place where the brave new world that 
was promised presumably never happened, and where Ryan Fletcher’s 
ruthless Robert John and John Kielty’s more humane Andrew live off 
scraps in-between burning the corpses of the plague victims that 
surround them.

The bridge may be their fortress, but it’s a natural beacon too for 
Helen Mallon’s whey-faced Catherine and her guardian, Craw, played with 
raggedy guile by Myra McFadyen. When both Craw and Catherine’s baby are 
afflicted, it forces Catherine into actions that may help her survive 
into near domestic bliss, but which will have long-term consequences 
for all.

It’s a dense and claustrophobic landscape Travers and Gaughan have 
mapped out. The language is an arcane melding of flamboyant richness 
with something unflinchingly coarse. As the actors relish in the grit 
of the rarely-heard demotic that punctuates the play’s near Hardeyesque 
scenario, a major new voice might just have been heard.

The Herald, May 7th 2012

ends


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