Hill Street Theatre (Venue 41)
4 stars ****

IT’S WELL OVER a century now, since the forces of modernism, absurdism and abstraction first began to make themselves felt in European theatre; and it’s an open question whether those forms that were avant-garde two or three generations ago have had their day, or still have something to offer, in a world struggling to make sense of itself. Ed Robson of Cumbernauld Theatre, though, is in no doubt that those forms are still worth pursuing; and he comes close to proving his point in this brief, intriguing and sometimes hilarious surreal drama, in which two junior bueaucrats involved in providing new identities for witnesses who have turned state evidence lose a vital file, and are forced to venture into the badlands of a section of their building where time seems to melt away, and lost personalities are found wandering in search of themselves.

It’s not clear, in the end, exactly what has inspired Robson to create this show at this time; its mood seems to relate more to an age of overmighty states and unchallenged bureacracies, rather than to our current experience of failing structures and social fragmentation. With the help of a fine score by Bal Cooke, though, Robson sustains the Kafkaesque mood of his story with terrific flair, and some real meditative pathos. And whatever else we make of it, this intriguing fragment of new Scottish theatre features three superb performances, from Robbie Jack and Finn Den Hertog as the two office-slaves, and from Richard Addison as the lost man they find wandering in the mysterious “Section B”, haunted by memories of a life that is no longer his own, and by mistakes that he cannot atone for, since, in a sense, he no longer exists.

Joyce McMillan
Until 29 August


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