JOYCE McMILLAN on THE INQUISITOR at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 27.9.07
2 stars **
RULES IN THEATRE ARE made to be broken. But all the same, it seems to me that there’s one unavoidable requirement when it comes to writing monologues, in that the writer has to set up a convincing dramatic relationship between the speaker and the audience, or face complete failure. Peter Arnott’s fascinating but deeply flawed monologue The Inquisitor – playing in the Play, Pie and Pint lunchtime season this week, and performed by the playwright himself – never even attempts to set up a direct relationship with the audience, because it is entirely addressed to a second character who appears on stage, but remains completely silent. Arnott is a British secret service interrogator, the silent listener is a terrorist suspect who refuses to respond to him in any way; the result is a desperate rant by the increasingly sweaty and agitated speaker, without response or development either from the other character, or from a completely excluded and increasingly frustrated audience.
Within these severe limitations, though, Arnott displays his usual formidable combination of sharp political intelligence and sheer theatrical chutzpah, ranging fiercely over the myriad ways in which enemies seek to deny each other’s humanity, spirituality and moral complexity. Arnott’s performance is a bit of a shambles, as he loses track of the script, sweats and blubbers. The disturbing fact is, though, that even in a show which is largely a mess, he demonstrates more brains, presence and gravitas in 35 minutes than most Scottish actors can muster in a whole season. Get Arnott trained up and physically fit, in other words, and he could become the finest Scottish actor of his generation; as well as remaining what he already is, one of our leading playwrights, on his day.
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