JOYCE MCMILLAN on IMMACULATE at the ArchesTheatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 3.8.11
3 stars ***
MIA IS A BRIGHT POST-STUDENT in her early Twenties, and it’s almost a year since she broke up with her boyfriend Michael. So far as she can recall, she hasn’t had a sexual relationship since; so when she discovers that she’s six months pregnant, Mia is puzzled, to say the least – and even more so when she is visited, in quick sucession, by a latterday angel Gabriel announcing that her child is the son of God, and by Lucifer, who also claims the baby for his own.
This is the scenario around which smart young British playwright Oliver Lansley builds his play Immaculate, first seen on the Edinburgh Fringe in 2005; and the result is a well-made two-hour drama that offers a bewildering mixture of high potential, occasional brilliance, and frequent collapse iinto self-absorbed twentysomething tosh. The play is at its best when it talks at least semi-seriously about Mia’s dilemma, and the way in which the abuse of her womb by a couple of warring higher powers reflects the position of women throughout history; and in Bill Wright’s brisk and elegant production for Glasgow shoestring groups Tabby Cat and Rekindle, the lovely Amiera Darwish gives the role its full value, in a performance full of wit and strength, and a real, sexy female energy.
The play is almost unbearable, on the other hand, when it dwindles towards a kind of post-graduate spoof on the story of the Virgin Birth, complete with coy little monologues in which all the main players explain their feelings to camera (i.e. the audience) in winsome episode-of-Friends style. This is toe-curling in tone, dull and predictable in content, and not nearly as theatrical in form as it thinks it is; and although Lansley is clearly bursting with talent, he needs to accept that whatever the big themes of 21st century drama are, they probably don’t include endless jokery about the immature private lives of his twentysomething mates.