On life, love and faith
OUR FATHERS Seen at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Touring until November 18 THE MAIDS Dundee Rep Until November 4
‘WRITTEN and performed by Rob Drummond and Nicholas Bone”, reads the poster for Our Fathers, the new co-production between the Traverse Theatre and Edinburgh-based touring company Magnetic North. So the piece takes its place in a tradition of “devised” theatre that has become prominent (if not predominant) in Scotland.
Indeed, one could be forgiven for wondering if playwrighting is becoming a dying art in our country. Too often the devised strand in Scottish theatre seems modest in ambition.
Our Fathers is an abundant case in point. The piece is inspired by Father And Son, the early-20th century book by the English writer (and Protestant fundamentalist) Edmund Gosse. Nicholas Bone (artistic director of Magnetic North) was given the memoir by his father, formerly the Anglican Bishop of Reading. He, in turn, encouraged Drummond (whose father is a retired Kirk minister) to read Gosse’s opus.
The resulting show is a cobbled together series of more or less interesting reflections on religion and the nature of the relations between Bone and Drummond and their fathers, intercut with somewhat dramatised sections from Gosse’s book. Structurally, the piece barely hangs together: a fact aided not at all by the irritating, deliberately fake conflict between the two performers about who plays which character and the order in which scenes are presented.
A lovely score by Scott Twynholm and charming design by Karen Tennent (beautifully lit by Simon Wilkinson) lend the show an aesthetic quality lacking in an otherwise uncertain, halting production.
There is a similar lack of conviction in Dundee Rep’s disappointingly bloodless staging of Jean Genet’s modernist classic The Maids. Director Eve Jamieson’s production is set in the of a Paris apartment. The room is flanked, in pointlessly obvious metaphor, by two glass cabinets in which the housemaids (and sisters) Claire (Irene Macdougall) and Ann Louise Ross (Solange) sit, illuminated in red when inactive, and green when they spring to life.
It is not ungallant of me, I hope, to point out Macdougall and Ross are somewhat beyond the ages of their characters (who, Genet stipulated, are in their early to mid-30s). This generational shift is intriguing and could have worked, were both actors not so observably uncomfortable with the sadomasochism of the sisters’ fantasy ritual regarding their despised mistress.
When the mistress (Emily Winter) arrives (in the midst of her recently arrested lover’s crisis), she soon crosses the line between the character’s selfdramatising and simple overacting. To the absence of sexual tension is added a lack of subtlety in the class hatreds and personal resentments among the women.
Self-conscious and quite insipid, this production compares badly with Stewart Laing’s exciting, if uneven, all-male version of the play at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre in 2013. For tour dates for Our Fathers, visit magneticnorth.org.uk
Rob Drummond and Nicholas Bone in Our Fathers PHOTO by Mihaela Bodlovic