The Unconquered


JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE UNCONQUERED (Stellar Quines at The Caves, Edinburgh) for The Scotsman 18.3.08

4 stars ****

IN A LONG, dank space at The Caves beneath South Bridge, an angular black-and-white set is squeezed onto the small stage.  It represents – in cartoon-like pencil-strokes – the dining-room, then the besieged basement, of an ordinary middle-class home; and in it – in similarly sketch-like costumes, with two-dimensional cartoon props – a mother, father and teenage daughter bicker over their bourgeois lives.  There’s the father’s middle-management pomposity, the mother’s grief at her loveless marriage, and the daughter’s generalised disgust, which is given a sudden focus when their world is shaken by a popular revolution, then by invasion from the forces of the “free world”, determined to restore the status quo.

This is Stellar Quines’s award-winning 2007 production of Torben Betts’s The Unconquered, now even more powerful in this welcome revival, which is set for a five-week Scottish tour before dates in London and New York.  Written in a fierce post-modern dramatic verse, the play is essentially about the politics of invasion, and the plight of the teenage girl who, over 75 slightly uneven minutes of tragi-comic nightmare, comes to represent her raped, abused, corrupted and disrespected country.  Sometimes, the style of Muriel Romanes’s production is so striking that it threatens to overwhelm the meaning of Betts’s text.  But with Nicola Harrison, Neil McKinven and a superb Alexandra Mathie acting up a storm as daughter, father, and mother, that danger has receded since last year; and what’s left is a real explosion of 21st century theatrical energy, timely, well-crafted, and unforgettable.



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