Grain in the Blood (4 stars)

Grain in the Blood

credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Clautrophobic new thriller from Rob Drummond

Establishing its thriller credentials from the start, Grain in the Blood opens with a discussion about a prisoner coming to stay in a family home, a potentially violent prisoner who has spent time in a psychiatric ward.

The rural house by a derelict farm is isolated but with five people inside, one of whom must be accompanied everywhere, there is a prevalent sense of claustrophobia, aided by Michael John McCarthy's eerie soundtrack. The tension heightens and breaks repeatedly in a well-paced story which drip-feeds its audience with revelations.

Rob Drummond's script feels timeless: there are mobile phones and jokes that the 80s were the Dark Ages, and yet it is steeped in the folklore of harvest season, with superstitions that speak of a time gone by. The box set and clear direction nods to realism, with clever sliding doors allowing the action to move from front room to bedroom to barn with only the shortest breaks.

The play explores the moral dilemma of how far you would go to save someone's life. As well as delivering the underlying threat of violence and some genuinely heart-wrenching moments, the actors also make great use of the humour in the script. John Michie's comic timing and terse delivery as Burt and Sarah Miele's enthusiastic swearing as 12-year-old Autumn provide laughter throughout.

Autumn's final monologue dominates the close of the play. With the intuition of youth, she knows what the adults are hiding from her and from themselves, and she delivers a powerful ending that does justice to such carefully crafted tension.

Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 29 Oct; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 1--Sat 12 Nov.

Grain in the Blood

Familial drama featuring Blythe Duff, John Michie and Andrew Rothney.