Arctic Oil Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Two stars Until October 20
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.
Ballyturk - Simon Donaldson and Grant O’Rourke in Ballyturk.