Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Sat 29 Feb–Sat 1 Mar, then touring
If you saw the recent production of Equus which has been touring Scotland, you might be forgiven for thinking a theme was emerging for audiences of Scottish theatre. Just as Peter Shaffer’s 70s hit deals, quite explicitly, with parallelling the role of priest and psychiatrist, so too does this more recent work by Conor McPherson. The ideas of the philosopher Foucault, who claims that the confessional role of the priest was pretty well taken over by the psychiatrist in the modern period, seems to have been seen as fit for drama by many writers of recent years.
McPherson’s piece, here produced by those champions of unseen recent work in Scottish theatre, Rapture, tells the story of a man who believes he’s seen the ghost of his dead wife and visits a psychiatrist and former priest with troubles of his own. ‘He’s left the priesthood under some kind of cloud, and gone on to be a psychiatrist,’ explains director Michael Emans. ‘Priests and therapists are on the outside of everything. They can listen to what people say to them, but they can’t advise or input directly. This leaves them in a very emotional world, but with no means of speaking a lot of the time, which leads to emotional stunting.’
Yet there are bigger, existential themes to the piece. ‘It’s a very Irish play, with that sense of redemption and sin hanging over it,’ Emans explains. But McPherson’s play shows broader concerns with a phase of life beyond ethnicity. ‘It’s a play which a lot of people could empathise with, about a stage in life where you realise you can’t achieve all the things you set out to do, and you start to wonder what’s beyond that. The term ‘Shining City’ is from The Pilgrim’s Progress, and it refers to a journey to a place that everyone is going to; the characters in this piece are also on a journey.’