'e Polish Quine (3 stars)

Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 6-Sat 9 Jun


The damaging effect of that which remains unspoken is something that plagues our culture both collectively and individually. It hangs, as well, like some mighty Presbyterian judgement over the characters of this Henry Adam play from Dogstar, a substantially rewritten piece from the early 90s.

In it, we meet Davy (Fraser C Sivewright) on return to his rural home in the North East immediately after the second world war. As he settles into farm life with his family again, what promises to be a sedate and bucolic reverie soon turns into a conflict as intense as the one he’s just departed. As the shock of the modern descends upon the countryside, changing technologies are combined with altering demographics to create tension with a recently arrived Polish family up the hill. A tentative romance begins between the troubled veteran and a young woman from the farm (Magdalena Katela), but local bigotry, particularly as manifested by Davy’s mother (Anne Kidd) and sister Kate (Sarah Haworth), intervenes. Meanwhile, Kate’s ne’er do well fiancé (Douglas Russell) adds violence to a fraught situation.

Matthew Zajac’s production shows a real sense of the quiet lyricism of Adam’s everyday, but heightened emotional poetry. Dave Smith’s clever design, which uses back projection and silhouette, deftly adds to the effect. What’s revealed of the characters’ pasts is predictable, but rightly so, for the power of this drama works not through revelation, but when the past is revealed. All the same, while Adam’s writing, as ever, builds emotional power from scene to scene, the piece is far too long, at around two-and-a-half hours, for its own good. There are good performances, though, particularly from Kidd’s stern and judgemental mother, and Hamish Wilson, a gentler, more forgiving half of the couple. Douglas Russell, too, first as an amputee mate of the protagonist, whose fervent communist idealism descends to alcoholic oblivion then as the dodgy brother-in-law, is especially strong. (Steve Cramer)

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