Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 6 Oct
I suppose that in a society obsessed with surveillance and security there’s bound to be a certain level of paranoia among our citizenry, and this itself can turn into neurosis. This certainly seems to be the case in Davy Anderson’s new devised play at the Traverse, where no relationships, sexual, emotional or fraternal seem maintainable, and each character retreats into forms of obsession or displacement, unable to formulate bonds with anyone outside the self.
In the piece, Colin, a seedy businessman on the slide (Neil McKinven) seeks some financial salvation in an emigrant worker scam conducted with the Polish cleaner (Agnieszka Bresler) at his collapsing company. She in turn is fancied by the simple-minded security man (Brian Ferguson) who spends his nights watching unchanging monitors at the front desk. Meanwhile, Colin’s wife (Gabriel Quigley) obsesses over their home and her scallywag brother (Owen Whitelaw) who’s used as an errand boy by her husband. On one of his missions he encounters Caroline (Molly Innes) a crime scene photographer who has developed a fetishistic preoccupation with her job.
Anderson’s own production in front of Will Holt’s simple, multifunctional decrepit office set has a few problems with the convolution of its plot and the consequent dissipation of sympathy for its characters, but there are many compensations, not the least of them the smart and accomplished dialogue. As a social diagnostic, the piece is relentlessly dark, glowering equally at Caroline’s peculiar fetish and Colin’s bizarre and ultimately hazardous masturbatory technique. Its commentary on the exploitation of emigrant labour is incidental to a broader examination of the tawdry forms of entrepeneurship to which our economy has given rise. There are very strong performances all round, particularly from Ferguson, who brings a sweet pathos to his naïve security man, and McKinven, whose grubby and rapacious character is offset by sad sexual frustration. If the piece needs cleaning up structurally, it still contrives to intrigue throughout.