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John Johnston


Traverse Theatre

As I was settling in my seat at the Traverse I noticed the raised stage was covered with a giant dust cloth. As if it could be covering something for decades if not longer. And as that drape was torn off in the very beginning we are introduced to a rather grey and stained living room which is stuffed to the gills with grey detritus; old take-away boxes and wellington boots, and all sorts of other tat strewn across the floor, eking up the walls and even hanging off the ceiling! All of it an off white colour. And the residents Ma (Karen Dunbar) and Pa (Gerry Mulgrew) are equally grey and spotty in dress as in nature.

You get the feeling that they’re just a dotty old couple; they dwell on minutiae, have cyclical conversations and get on each other tits. There’s definitely a quality of the absurd running through this which is laugh out loud funny, what with Ma soliloquising about how she got an egg from a giant man chicken. But even mixed within this humour you do get the feeling that there’s something not quite right going on. Be it when one realises that Ma may not be as old as her grey tresses make her and that that lump within her midriff may actually be “a little mouth”. And the uneasiness tends to mount when we are introduced to the third character of the piece, Neil (Nalini Chetty). Which casts quite a sinister light upon Ma and Pa, and yet there’s still a large amount of humour here.

The nature of unease and making one not sure what to think is almost sickening, which is in earnest a very interesting experience. Martin McCormick (Writer) and Andy Arnold (Director) complement each other very well in a rather sinister double act kind of way. And Arnold truly does evoke the best from his cast, be it Dunbar’s and Mulgrew’s agitation and manic obliviousness or Chetty’s disquiet and bewilderment. The latter very much being the window for the audience within this rather twisted world. And the rather dubious icing on this particular cake is probably Charlotte Lane’s design. It’s clear she had a field day in bringing this whole weird world to life.

When I left the theatre my head and my heart didn’t know what to really think and feel, but I know one thing for sure I’ll certainly be keeping my eye out for future works from all these very talented folk.

Markus Helbig.

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