The Dogstone/Nasty, Brutish and Short
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 15 Nov
NEW WRITING DOUBLE BILL
The ongoing Debuts season presented by the Traverse both confounds and confirms the expectation invited by the listless opening effort Cockroach and the possibly gloomy subject matter (the darker side of the Scottish family), in a duo of new works examining the complexities of the family unit, under Dominic Hill’s subtle and understated direction.
Capturing the stoic sense of humour that escorts many Scottish families through harsh times, Kenny Lindsay’s The Dogstone follows the fortunes of young Lorn (Scott Fletcher) as he narrates in flashback the tale of his father’s (Andy Gray) demise.
This engaging mix of monologues and tall tales expertly weaves formative youthful experiences with the stark realisation of a life unfulfilled. Substituting fantastic stories for parenting skills, Gray displays his usual verve with a well-timed comic turn as the father, falling from the lofty seat of his son’s idolatry. Naomi Wilkinson’s humdrum seaside tenement set of brown lino, bin bags and sparse furniture allows the poetic, lyrical language explored by the thoroughly engaging Fletcher to firmly fix the attention on a journey that is just a touch too uneventful for its length.
Shorter, but lacking the nuance and shape of its companion, Andy Duffy’s Nasty, Brutish and Short takes the notion of a dysfunctional family to its extreme in a bludgeoning and direct tale of two brothers. Trying to improve his dire situation, Luke (James Young), aids Jim (Martin Docherty) in a robbery, leading to an explosive confrontation.
Lacking the political edge that can make this style of provocative theatre more meaningful, the menacing aggression displayed here feels unfounded. Embracing the jarring, stilted language, the cast valiantly battles to inspire the interest vicariously provided by the deliciously innovative set. But, despite the dark pool, filled with the flotsam and jetsam of books and broken furniture, interest is only piqued by floundering splashes of feet, while the floundering story, with too little to say, gasps for air.