Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Maddy and Rory are the most perfect first-world couple imaginable at the start of Frances Poet’s new play, given a broodingly forensic rendering by director Zinnie Harris in this production for the Traverse in association with the National Theatre of Scotland. There they are, finishing each other’s sentences off over a civilised glass of wine while their three-year-old son Josh sleeps in his bedroom next door.
As they share barely-there nudge-nudge innuendos with Rory’s mother Morven after putting Josh in her care, Morven lets slip an incident involving outside forces who may or may not have brought harm to her grand-son. The chain of events this sets off almost brings Maddy and Rory’s world collapsing in on them, and only a leap of faith and a possible blind eye to go with it can save things.
Poet’s play is troublingly in tune with a current wave of TV drama that picks at the psychological sores of a post-Yewtree climate, when the old certainties of cartoon saviours have given way to sometimes justifiable over-protective paranoia. The bogeyman here is the ubiquitous Stranger, actually a series of individuals played with creepy intent in a uniform pink shirt by George Anton, whose every remark seems loaded to add fuel to Maddy’s increasingly unhinged fire.
With the ice-cool order of designer Fred Meller’s living room noisily upended into chaos, Harris’ production ramps up the Stranger’s oddness by the initial normality of a world symbolised by both Lorraine McIntosh’s more traditionally mumsy Morven and Peter Collins’ Rory. A tug-of-war between Morven and a simmeringly brilliant Kirsty Stuart’s increasingly over-arched Maddy over an original Kermit the Frog doll turns out to be the least of it in a play that takes just enough leaps out of the ordinary to illustrate the extremes a mother’s love sometimes must endure.
The Herald, April 27th 2018