Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2013


Traverse Theatre

Genre: Drama

Venue: Traverse


Low Down

Ciara has grown up shielded from her father’s criminal underworld, and has forged her own empire with a Glasgow art gallery. Now those two worlds threaten to collide. A bravura performance from Blythe Duff in David Harrower’s love song to Glasgow.


I’m taking your eyes, he’d say, and keeping them safe,

I’m taking your ears and keeping them safe.”

Ciara is a woman whose gangland father has cosseted and protected her from his criminal activities throughout her childhood, and she, in return, has put him on a pedestal. She has built her own empire with an art gallery in a Glasgow entirely different from her father’s, but now the two worlds threaten to collide. With her father recently dead, Ciara emerges from the shadows to tell her own story, one she tells with the expectation of no sympathy.

Blythe Duff is Ciara – she is that Glasgow everywoman who contains multitudes. Ciara was written for her and the fit is perfect. It is a bravura performance of a woman who is facing her past head on. A green-clad Greek avenging fury, Blythe Duff’s Ciara is both epic and vulnerable.

Ciara tells us that Glasgow runs on envy. That envy is shored up with a rich dose of inequality and Ciara tells us of a city in transition, a city with two sides constantly in a battle for supremacy. It’s about masculinity, hard men and the sleeping giants of women – a elegiac call out to Glasgow with all its faces.

This is a beautifully written play by David Harrower, veering from the Glasgow vernacular to mythic elegy on the city, from its grandiose carapace to its seamy underbelly. He conjures a mythic picture of a woman who acts as a metaphor for Glasgow and whose shadow hangs over the whole play:

 ‘A giant woman

She’s, I mean, she’s huge


Lying on her side, and sleeping, peacefully sleeping.’

But this is Glasgow, don’t let’s get above ourselves:

 ‘Attack of the Fifty-Foot Weegie he calls it’

But there are times when the storytelling suffers at the expense of the intoxication of words and the clarity of the plot loses out along the way.

Orla O’Loughlin’s direction is unobtrusive, creating a still space in which the long monologue can be told, though perhaps some light and shade might have helped the plot’s confusion. The set is stark, the back wall exposed with chains and ladder crawling down the wall. On stage there are half a dozen concrete pillars, a chair and a soiled, dirty mattress, creating a space at once stark, hard and slightly sordid. Philip Gladwell’s lighting design is bold and unflinching, adding to the full on stare of the production.

This is a backhanded love song to Glasgow, not the dressed up Sunday-best Glasgow of marketing brochures, but the real steamy, sultry mistress, warts and all; Glaswegians will love it.