JOYCE MCMILLAN on FOUR PARTS BROKEN at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 23.2.11
4 stars ****
VENEZUELA, Argentina, now Brazil: in its third week, the current series of lunchtime plays from Latin America, staged at the Traverse and Oran Mor by Play, Pie and Pint and the National Theatre of Scotland, has reached the biggest and most populous country on the continent; and Fernanda Jaber’s fierce forty-minute drama has plenty to say about a society under stress.
The central characters, in Abigail Docherty’s version for performance in Scotland, are two “feral” boys called James and Philip, who have grown up in a children’s home. Philip has recently been adopted by a middle-aged foster-mother, and James has run away from the home and is living rough; but both seem unable to express any emotional connection or need, except by lashing out, rejecting and thieving. The wonderful Meg Fraser, meanwhile, plays a woman called Nina, a care worker in the home who tries to comfort James, and is beaten up for her pains; meanwhile, her husband Jason languishes in the same hospital where Philip ends up after a fight, unable to live with Nina, her love, or her need.
Four Parts Broken is a brief, grim sketch of men so damaged that love and connection are utterly beyond them, and of the women whose lives they maim and sadden. Yet it has a vividness, a sharp-edged poetry, and a powerful kinetic energy that makes it a pleasure to watch; and David Betz-Heinemann’s production feartures a series of fine performances, not only from Meg Fraser as Nina, but from Stewart Cairns as her helpless husband, and from Tom Vernal and Conor McCarron as the boys, fighting like animals for some sense of connection to the world, and – at the end – just catching a glimpse of a possible better life.