Elf Analysis - theatre preview
Few young writers of recent years can have had quite so rapid a rise to prominence as Morna Pearson. Before November of last year, few beyond a handful of mentors would have heard of the Elgin born writer, but after her Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) nomination for Best New Play for her first commissioned work, Distracted, things have happened fast. She’s been recommissioned by the Traverse for a major new play next year, joined the Royal Court Young Writers group, and won the Rod Hall Prize for new writing, resulting in a commission from major English company Paines Plough. With a new commission for a radio play from the BBC added to the mix, it’s a wonder that Pearson has found time for her short play at Oran Mor, elf Analysis.
Pearson showed a precocious emotional awareness that awed the CATS panel with Distracted, a piece exploring the life of a vaguely handicapped boy and his friends in a Scottish trailer park. The 27-year-old’s Oran Mor piece seems to indicate a continued interest in outsiders and people who are the victims of other people’s prejudices. ‘It’s about a girl who, overnight, moves to a city and gets a new job in an office. Her workmates are quite outgoing, but tend to bully her. They seem to see themselves as from the mainstream of society — they don’t question their behaviour at all. She’s very different. She seeks refuge in a stationery cupboard, where she meets an elf,’ she explains, as if this were quite the next logical thing to occur.
Yet in Pearson’s occasionally dark and gothic comic universe, it is. Her work seems to be powered by imagination, subjectivity and emotion as much as any naturalistic scenario. And emotion seems to be its starting point. ‘Early on, I took Beckett’s advice — “all that matters is the laughter and the tear” — I go for what comes first for me, the emotional journey. Then I go back and structure it afterwards. I just have to cut jokes that don’t go anywhere and self indulgences.’
It’s a technique which has already won her a scholarship to Australia on the Interplay international young playwrights programme shortly after her graduation from Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University College playwriting course, and earned her further attention internationally. For her though, it’s all about entertainment: ‘I’ve got a short attention span, so I want it to be a lively experience for the audience, with a lot of emotion involved; elf Analysis is very like that too, it’s very much about emotion. The most interesting characters are outsiders, there’s more to explore psychologically.’ Expect to see many more of her outsiders. (Steve Cramer)
Oran Mor, Glasgow, until Sat 22 Sep