Family ties are constricting in this brilliant drama from Solar Bear
The family created by Nina Raine in Tribes is a modern paradigm of middle-class dysfunction: with two twentysomething boomerang kids Ruth (Kirsty McDuff) and Daniel (Ben Clifford) having returned to the home of exasperated writer parents Beth (Janette Foggo) and Christopher (Richard Addison). Their brittle parents' once-passionate marriage is now visibly strained, characterised by bourgeois pretensions like putting pepper on figs, wearing silk kimonos around the house and furiously demonising working-class people.
But the main focus is their other son, Billy (Alex Nowak), deaf from birth and pursuing his own act of rebellion: choosing to ignore the family by learning sign language. Embarking upon a relationship with Sylvia (Stephanie McGregor), who is going deaf, he asserts his independence against the hearing world from which he feels excluded. The cracks in a tempestuous situation become a chasm when he moves in with her after a short time.
Raw, tender and taboo-baiting, Raine's ping-pong of witty, recognisable squabbles are so acute they're painful. Jamie Wardrop's beautiful AV neon design adds a 3D surrealism. This is a lovingly portrayed poem to destroying the ones who care the most and how the simplest words can be misinterpreted – either wilfully or unintentionally.
Reviewed at Platform, Glasgow. Touring until Thu 22 Oct.