FringeReview Scotland 2015
Masters students at the Conservatoire have worked with playwright Jules Horne to give us a mother who has lost her son to war in a manner which is hard to fathom. She is attempting to find peace and a place to bury him within a community rife with rumour and condemnation. With clear nods to Antigone the community starts by shunning him and his mother before she is able, through the help of his former fiancé, to have him laid to some rest. This event brings her back in to the community and the community forms round her in a very positive ending.
We begin by meeting the community who, in the style of a Greek chorus introduce the storyline and the idea of how rumour can affect it. We are then thrust into the local curtain shop where we find the gossips in full flow with exposition and prejudiced opinion. It is then we meet the dead son in conversation with people whose memories of him guide us to a view of a man that has left us too soon but over and about whom there are unanswered questions. He continues to haunt his mother and former fiancée. His distraught mother is left not wanting to answer the phone or go out as people are condemning her son behind twitching curtains. Her sojourn with his former fiancé, returned to help, in the graveyard gives way to a tremendously funny set piece in the Council headquarters that spurs on the change in mother and community.
There is no prolonged development or rehearsal period for these pieces and there are obvious gaps in the writing which do not help the flow of the pieces. For me the beginning was uneven and disjointed – even annoying. Half way through, though I fell in love with it. The reason for this was very simple. I gained the impression that this was not going to fall into a clichéd and hackneyed misery memoir. You felt that to end this piece of theatre with a breakdown would have been as easy and as boring as many other pieces of theatre that have tried to tell us of the horrors of war. The fact it strayed away from that horror was its blessing.
Directorially I did find the set changes less than helpful to the narrative and flow – really we could do with slicker use of the stage. Within scenes there was an overall tightness and they were well directed and acted. The ensemble nature means that the performances were varied yet tight. At times some of the diction could have been better but these are minor grumps in a piece where the performances carried the unevenness of the script. The set piece in the Council Offices stands out between Gabrielle Dufresne and Keith Warwick. Warwick has a penchant for comedy and rightly steals the lime light but Dufresne generously allows his opportunity whilst supporting the laughs with such wonderful ease. Her straight role to his comic one was a joy to watch.
The soundscape worked well, the set was functional but with the right degree of design. It added to the feel of a production in between certain success and the opportunity of exploring massive themes. I loved the houses as lights. With the amount of time with which such a production has to be put together it is a remarkable piece of theatre. With such great performances from this young cast and back ground team we can rest assured there shall be a few names within this production we can look forward to hearing about in years to come.