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Our Fathers

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

Between them, Rob Drummond and Nicholas Bone have successfully carved out separate careers in off-kilter contemporary theatre. While Drummond is a playwright and solo performer of semi auto-biographical shows, Bone is a director and founder of the Magnetic North company. Given their propensity for creating various shades of onstage ritual, it perhaps should come as no surprise to discover that they are both sons of clergymen. Bone grew up the child of an English bishop, while Drummond's father was a Church of Scotland minister.

The sins of those fathers have clearly left their mark in this co-production between Magnetic North company and the Traverse, a seventy-five minute meditation on this pair of self-confessed atheists (or are they?) respective relationships with their dads. The starting point for this is a copy of Edmund Gosse's book, Father & Son, which charts Gosse's life growing up with his preacher father and his subsequent loss of faith.

Buttoned up in charcoal coloured Victorian waistcoats, Bone and Drummond set out their store on Karen Tennent's wood-panelled chapel-like set with a mix of anecdotal routines and staged scenes from Gosse's book. Surrounded by various aquatic confirmations of Darwinism, the pair's true confessions concerning stolen scissors and predatory jellyfish may raise laughs, but as with any double act carrying so much baggage, fall-outs are inevitable.

Here, after all, are a couple of very quiet rebels, who have in some ways been driven to their successes by the towering paternal presences who shaped them, and who they still clearly adore. Only now, as mortality and the prospect of anything resembling the afterlife loom large, do Bone and Drummond want to both shed their respective pasts while acknowledging its importance. What's left is a dramatic prayer that honours where both men have come from even as eternal questions remain.

The Herald, October 27th 2017

ends

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