Broke (4 stars)

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 25 Nov


Poverty and debt is perhaps the overwhelming fear that stalks contemporary consumer society. That’s the starting point for Iain Finlay Macleod’s adaptation of this tale by contemporary French dramatist David Lescot.

As poverty walks in the door, love, of course, walks out. So it is for the protagonist of this piece (David Ireland), an unemployed thirtysomething who is left by his partner (Abigail Davies) at the outset. He’s then visited by a court-appointed liquidator (Gary Collins) a peculiar, ambivalent figure, who seems as much intent on the personal care of our man as his financial rehabilitation. As the flat - whose furniture is cleverly represented in abstract form in Lisa Sangster’s design - is ruthlessly stripped of its assets, we find, surprisingly, no desperation to re-enter the consumer world on the part of the victim. Instead, he retreats into an extreme form of delusionary subjectivity, taking on the character of The Incredible Shrinking Man from a paperback novel left in the flat by his former love.

MacLeod’s quirky humour sets off the subject matter adroitly, as we find, not a tragedy in the loss of a man’s status as bourgeois consumer, but a joyous kind of liberation. Removed from the worship of objects and shifted into a kind of primal state of self, Ireland’s character seems more in synch with his organic environment than the folk that surround him. A nice performance from the latter, with good back up, makes this an amusing and ultimately very challenging night of play at the expense of contemporary materialism.

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