Dream Play – Most Favoured
4 stars ****
Dream Play – Catterline
3 stars ***
Dream Play – Clean
4 stars ****
Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)
A PLAY, a paper cup of coffee, and a pretty good brakfast roll, with bacon, egg, or veggie suasage; that’s what’s on offer at the Traverse, at nine o’clock each morning for the rest of the Fringe, in the theatre’s powerful and addictive Dream Plays series of 45-minute rehearsed readings of brand-new plays by top writers from Scotland and beyond.
The idea behind the season – put together by playwright David Greig and Traverse director Orla O’Loughlin – is to invite the writers to dare to write scenes from a previously unthinkable play. Hence the series subtitle, Scenes From A Play I’ll Never Write; and the results so far suggest that the format is .
So in David Ireland’s thrillingly upbeat comic two-hander Most Favoured, which opened the season, Gabriel Quigley and Jordan McCurrach play Mary and Mike, a couple whose morning-after-the-night-before conversation, in a hotel bedroom somewhere near Haymarket station, takes a strange and mystical turn when Mary confesses that as a single woman about to turn 40, she has been sleeping around in the hope of becoming pregnant. If Mary’s confession seems slightly desperate, though, Mike’s calm response is downright weird; and their conversation plunges brilliantly through layers of implausibility and is trust, to a brief, glimpsing recognition of the truth that new life itself, and the love that sustains and nurtures it, is something of a miracle, almost beyond belief.
Sue Glover’s Catterline, which followed, is a more tentative series of scenes from a possible play about the life of the great Scottish artist Joan Eardley, and the two friends – joiner-turned-artist Angus, and lover and companion Lil – who accompanied her to the end of it. The tone is meditative and elegiac, the energy sometimes low. Yet there’s some intense poetry here, about Eardley’s art and the place that inspired it; and a hard core of dramatic potential in the tension between the reality of Joan’s life, as a woman caught between the masculine and the feminine but always certain about her vocation as a painter, and the conventional assumptions of the family and society who returned to claim her, at the moment of her death.
In terms of sheer formal excitement though, it was the season’s third play Clean – written by new writer on the block Sabrina Mahfouz, over the last few days – that really began to rattle the cage a bit. Inspired by sexist assumptions about whether girls can have the kinds of streetwise adventures featured in computer games, Clean features three women in contemporary London – Zainab, Katya and Chloe – all of whom fancy themselves as “clean” criminals, expert perpetrators of victimless crime. In their opening monologues, they all reveal themselves as fluent solo speakers about their way of life; but when the female boss of the club they all frequent calls them together, and forces them on pain of exposure to undertake a joint mission, they begin to learn the knack of working in a team.
In just 30 minutes, in other words, Mahfouz’s play sets up a powerful situation, creates three memorable characters, and speaks volumes both about the empowerment of young women, and about the solidarity between them that – in our individualistic culture – is often the missing piece of the jigsaw. And for a short, instant show, performed from a script that didn’t even exist a week ago, that has to count as a pretty impressive achievement.
Until 26 August