Arc­tic Oil Tra­verse The­atre, Ed­in­burgh Two stars Un­til Oc­to­ber 20

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Culture -

More than once on these pages I have lamented the fact that too many new plays staged in Scot­land in the new mil­len­nium (of­ten at our self-de­fined “new writ­ing the­atre”, the Tra­verse) have lacked imag­i­na­tion, am­bi­tion and the­atri­cal vigour. Far too of­ten, dra­mas seem to be writ­ten to a “soap opera with a twist” for­mula in which “nat­u­ral­is­tic” di­a­logue is col­lided with melo­drama and an is­sue-driven quest for so­cio-po­lit­i­cal rel­e­vance.

Clare Duffy’s new play Arc­tic Oil is, sadly, such a drama: a heavy-handed throw­ing to­gether of the most ur­gent con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics with a crudely drawn, soap opera-style fam­ily drama.

The role of fos­sil fu­els in the global eco­log­i­cal cri­sis is com­bined clum­sily with the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Jen­nifer Black’s un­named cli­mate change scep­tic and her (also name­less) en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist daugh­ter, played by Neshla Ca­plan. Is­sues of the daugh­ter’s men­tal dis­tress, the mother’s phys­i­cal health and the al­co­holism of the de­ceased hus­band and fa­ther are also thrown into the mix.

Fresh from his Ed­in­burgh Fringe suc­cess with David Ire­land’s blis­ter­ing satire Ul­ster Amer­i­can, Tra­verse as­so­ciate di­rec­tor Gareth Ni­cholls tries and (un­avoid­ably) fails to bring some en­ergy to a script that is un­imag­i­na­tive, in­sipid and lack­ing in con­vic­tion. The­atre critic Ken­neth Ty­nan fa­mously de­fined a good play as “a means of spend­ing two hours in the dark with­out be­ing bored”. Duffy’s drama man­ages to in­duce te­dium in just 65 pon­der­ous min­utes.

Pic­ture: John John­ston

Bal­ly­turk - Si­mon Don­ald­son and Grant O’Rourke in Bal­ly­turk.

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