Preview: The Devil Masters

Findlay Macleod's black seasonal comedy stars John Bett, Keith Fleming and Barbara Rafferty


The Traverse's big Christmas production is Iain Finlay Macleod's play The Devil Masters, a sharp satire about power, hypocrisy and the ruling elite set in Edinburgh's New Town. For the uninitiated, the term 'devilling' is used for trainee advocates. An affluent Edinburgh couple (and judges), Cameron and Lara Leishman come up against John, a 'wee radge' on the fringes of society and mind games are played when their beloved dog is held for ransom.

Finlay Macleod, a writer from the Isle of Lewis staying in Stockbridge as part of the Traverse's annual fellowship, was inspired by the extreme disparity of lifestyles he witnessed on Edinburgh's streets. As award-winning artistic director Orla O'Loughlin explains, 'the play deals with the way the haves and the have-nots position themselves and view each other. By bringing two esteemed and wealthy Edinburgh advocates into close proximity with a homeless unemployed man, a very live narrative begins to take shape. Iain's dialogue was always very funny, very absurd. Make no mistake, this is a black, black comedy, a contemporary Edinburgh immorality tale if you like: perfect Traverse Christmas fare.’

Starring the cream of Scottish acting talent, the cast features John Bett, Keith Fleming and Barbara Rafferty. 'It's a thrilling line-up; when we pair that calibre of “theatrical royalty” with an edgy contemporary satire, it gets very exciting,' O'Loughlin continues, admitting that Traverse shows have garnered something of a reputation for playing with bleak visions of reality.

'Our writers do not shy away from the darker realities and possibilities of what it is to be alive today. It's by turns farcical, violent and political'. It certainly sounds like the ideal antidote to the Krankies: an end-of-year comedy which bruises and has a real resonance, as well as eliciting many (uncomfortable) laughs.

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 9–Wed 24 Dec.

The Devil Masters

Writer Iain Finlay MacLeod’s surrealist black comedy twists the ordinary, asking what we become when we peel away the layers of class division and social decorum. Directed by award-winning Traverse artistic director Orla O’Loughlin.


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