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FringeReview Scotland 2014

New Works 2014 – 1914 Machine

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in collaboration with Playwright’s Studio Scotland

Genre: Drama

Venue: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland


Low Down

The mystique of the Marquise is the narrative vehicle as she travels from France to England by plane in 1914 bringing German war plans, Radium and cocaine. It’s a heady mix as this young company use this story as a springboard to imagine what life shall be like many years in the future.



Performed as part of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s showcase of new works and with the MA Classical and Contemporary Text students this is a unique look at what life was like 100 years ago. The Marquise’ travel to England by plane is radical enough but once in place her effect upon the characters awaiting her arrival is a subtle insight into what some in the upper echelons may have hoped would transpire after a “Great War”.

This is exceptionally well imagined by playwright Clare Duffy. The writing has a blended curiosity about it weaving the personal and the bigger picture in and out with ease. With solid direction from Paul Brotherston it made for an excellent performance piece that was taking a very different view to the events of 1914 and now that has transpired in many of the official commemorations. It reminded me that the tales of this episode in our history is certainly more personal than the flag waving and worthy of both discussion and exploitation.

The performances from this young company were great. Their response to Brotherston’s direction – particularly in the group movement scenes – were just fantastic. There was a real ensemble feel about it which translated over the footlights and gave you great confidence. In particular I loved Isobel McArthur’s Marquise which had to be good to hold the piece together whilst honourable mentions should go to Flora Sowerby and Matthew Seager. It has to be said though that the performances from throughout the company were of a standard that professional contracts should surely easily follow for all.

The set was a delicious mix of open space and furniture turned to great use by the cast. All the theatre arts were greatly used though the lighting was, I felt particularly effective. Costume too was both appropriate and evocative as we were transformed into the past and then catapulted towards a very strange future.

I enjoyed the performance wholeheartedly and the RCS, with this diverse young company have put together a course and a group of creatives that gave great heart for the future. Reading the biographies of this group you saw the international mix that the RCS have managed to draw together. It is important for the future that we have graduates with international appeal, a warm and fuzzy feeling towards their alma mater and the training that says this looks like theatre FROM Scotland is in very good hands. On the evidence of this I think it is safe to say – three out of three RCS. 


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