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The Cone Gatherers

His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen
4 stars
Robin Jenkins’ World War Two set novel is a broodingly strange affair. 
Peter Arnott’s new adaptation takes all of Jenkins’ concerns about 
class, good, evil and the self-destructive fear of otherness on the one 
hand and an empathetic desire to transcend one’s own station on the 
other, and makes a big serious statement on the human condition that 
retains its human heart.

Set on a remote Highland estate, the leafy splendour occupied by what 
are here referred to simply as Lady and Captain, as well as Lady’s 
liberal-minded twelve year old Roddie,  is ripped asunder by the rude 
intrusion of two brothers, the dour Neil and his brother Callum, the 
latter of whom would be classed today as having learning disabilities. 
Watching over all this is game-keeper Duror, who, with a terminally ill 
wife in her sick-bed, resembles a contemporary vigilante on the verge 
and is already on the shortest of fuses. In Callum, Duror recognises 
imperfections he can’t bear, with tragic consequences as he goes into 
psychological meltdown.

With enough space left for the play to breathe through a set of fine 
turns led by John Kielty and Ben Winger as the brothers, Ireland brings 
all this to rich poetic life on Hayden Griffin’s mighty-looking set 
awash with back projections that lend a panoramic scope from the play’s 
opening image. Duror’s wife Peggy, played by Helen Logan, moves as if 
operated by puppeteers. The deer being hunted down becomes a 
Bambi-esque solo dance by Maxine Hamilton. It’s Duror’s speech 
betraying his own potential fanaticism, however, juxtaposed here with 
Pathe news footage of Hitler’s holocaust, which chills the most.

The Herald, September 17th 2012



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