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Grain in the Blood

Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Four stars

Sacrifice is everywhere in Rob Drummond's brooding new play, co-produced here between the Tron and the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, where it visits following its Glasgow run. It's there in Andrew Rothney's near silent figure of Isaac, on compassionate leave from the prison he's been rotting in since he attempted to bring life through death during harvest time in his rural home years before. Now he's back, and with John Michie's stoic prison chaperone Burt watching over him, it's his twelve-year old daughter Autumn who needs saved. Isaac's mother Sophia would do anything to see Autumn survive, as would Frances Thorburn's Violet, who would kill to replace her own lingering loss.

There's an eerie sense of foreboding that looms large in Traverse artistic director Orla O'Loughlin's production that is ushered in by Michael John McCarthy's cracked chamber folk score. Even at it's most sombre, however, Drummond's script is peppered with grim one-liners delivered mercilessly by Blythe Duff as Sophia and John Michie's stoic Burt with barely a deadpan glance.

At the play's brutal heart, however, is a revelatory performance by Sarah Miele as Autumn, who carries the play right to the end, taking control of her own and everybody else's destiny with a premature wisdom beyond her years. This helps her see through all the hand-me-down hokum so much clearer than everybody else in such an unsentimental fashion. Even so, Autumn enjoys the ritual as a game as much as she does the fateful round of Truth or Dare at her birthday dinner. It is here the knives really come out in a dark tale where broken lives continue come what may.

The Herald, October 24th 2016

ends

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