Love Letters To The Public Transport System/Count Me In

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JOYCE MCMILLAN on LOVE LETTERS TO THE PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM and COUNT ME IN at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 5.3.11
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Love Letters To The Public Transport System 4 stars ****
Count Me In 3 stars ***

THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF SCOTLAND’S “Reveal” season of new work at the Traverse opens in what at first seems like low-key style, with this double bill of solo shows by young Glasgow-based artists. Like his 2010 Oran Mor hit Crunch, Gary McNair’s Count Me In explores the borderlands between theatre and the art of the public lecture, this time with an exploration of how McNair has reached the age of 25 without knowing much – or anything at all, really – about the political system in which he lives.

The show is never less than engaging, and the ease with which McNair takes on the idea of interactive theatre is always fascinating; this time, we all have to use a hand-held voting device to take part in instant polls about voting systems and marmite. In the end, though, McNair really has nothing to say about the much-debated issue of political engagement, except that – er – he should get more engaged.

Molly Taylor’s Love Letters To The Public Transport System, by contrast, is a traditional one-hour monologue of extraordinary exuberance and power; three interwoven stories of lives subtly changed by journeys on buses and trains, and of Taylor’s quest for a a way to thank the bus and train drivers who have delivered her to some of the key meetings of her life.

The mood of Taylor’s show is intensely romantic, the language a fabulous mixture of down-to-earth realism and soaring lyricism, all delivered in a post-modern Glasgow-Scouse idiom that pays full respect both to Taylor’s current city, and to her Liverpool roots. And in telling her sweet and ravishing stories – including one familiar to fans of Scottish theatre – Taylor also offers a memorable portrait of Britain today, rich in diversity, strewn with remarkable cities, and still underpinned by public services that are often despised, but without which the fabric of our lives – including some strands of pure magic – would simply collapse.

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