The Traverse and the National Theatre of Scotland have put on 4 new plays this autumn. I missed Cockroach but caught this double bill as well as Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us.
Both of these new plays were directed by Domenic Hill, and Naomi Wilkinson designed the sets. The pair have worked together before, notably at Dundee rep for Peer Gynt and Midsummer Night’s Dream which both won set design awards. The latter involved a large amount of water, used to great effect.
So, the Dogstone was a two hander by new playwright Kenny Lindsay about a father, Danskin and his son Lorn, set in Oban. Andy Gray played the now alcoholic father – how good to see him in a serious role, and Scott Fletcher was the boy. While both performances were very good, I was not convinced there was enough to make this worthwhile, although there were some interesting father/son moments.
After the break, it was Andy Duffy’s Nasty Brutish and Short. The set was some furniture and piles of magazines placed in about 3 inches of water. There was en electric bar fire sitting in the water too, and a sort of sparky (in a short circuit way) soundscape. And the piece was very edgy indeed involving a teenaged couple Mary Jane and Luke (Ashley Smith and James Young) and Luke’s elder brother Jim played by Martin Docherty. At first the actors wandered in and out of the water, but as things became more animated, water went everywhere, and I found this effective. But this was a dark, dark tale with a particularly brutal rape scene – yes, thrashing about in the water.
I generally like a challenge when I go to the theatre, but I did struggle with this. Perhaps because it was seen in a week when the newspapers were printing the real story of ‘Baby P’ in simply unreadable detail that it threw up more questions than it might have otherwise done. In the end, I was not actually sure what we were supposed to take away from this, apart from the fact that it lived up to its title.
I like Traverse 1 in the round, although it means that we do see backs of heads for at least some of the performance. You also get to see the rest of the audience, and there have been some very famous Scottish faces in the ranks. I also like the fact that Domenic Hill, the Traverse director, is always around somewhere, if not at the actual production, then networking in the bar. To be fair, his predecessor Philip Howard was also ‘omnipresent’. A sign of a good theatre.