Dream Plays 4,5,ands 6 – Rachel’s House, My Loneliness Is Killing Me, Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll

THEATRE
Dream Plays – Rachel’s House
4 stars ****
Dream Plays – My Loneliness Is Killing Me
3 stars ***
Dream Plays – Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll
4 stars ****

ROUND TWO of the Traverse’s breakfast-time dream plays, complete with coffee and bacon roll; and the cast of writers and actors involved grows more impressive by the day. The last of these three plays, for example, was written by Janice Galloway, who just picked up the Scottish Book Of the Year Award for her anti-memoir of her teenage years, All Made Up.

In Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll, directed for Dream Plays by David Greig, she takes us into the numbed yet fantastically dramatic world of a west of Scotland mental hospital, where a cast of half a dozen women – all brilliantly played by Pamela Reid, Louise Ludgate and Lynne Kennedy, under the supervision of Iain Robertson’s male nurse, Victor – fight their inner demons with varying degrees of determination of despair. The title comes not directly from the Ian Dury song, but from a reflection on the wild life of the 1960’s Scottish writer Alexander Trocchi, about whom one of the women is reading; if women are self-destructive and troubled, Galloway seems to be arguing, then giving up their addiction to men like Trocchi – or men who would like to be like Trocchi – would be an important first step to recovery.

Alan Wilkins’s My Loneliness Is Killing Me is a memorably weird and patchy account of solitary existence in a society where increasing numbers live alone. Inspired by the Britney Spears song of the same name, Wilkins creates a 40-minute chorale of satire, meditation, running commentary, self-criticism and occasional bursts of song for a cast of three characters, played here by Gabriel Quigley, Ashley Smith and Steven McNicoll, all on blazing form.

The show is probably at its best when reflecting on the early-onset eccentricity of the long-term single, meditating on the quiet squalor of lives that involve opening solitary tins of canned ravioli in front of the telly, and linking that solitude to the deeper unease of a society that revolves around vacuous consumption, rather than any serious sense of fulfilment or convivialty. Some of the direct political satire, by contrast, falls a little flat; it hits a bulls-eye though, with the key phrase of the morning, from Stevie McNicoll’s irascible character. “We can’t possibly be lonely, can we,” he asks, “when we’re all in this together?”

Despite its much more tentative air, though, it’s Nicola McCartney beautiful piece Rachel’s House that really haunts the mind, from this trio of plays. A brief 35-minute piece based on McCartney’s own verbatim interviews with women in a rehabilitation facility in the United States – part of the prison system, but experimenting with a new approach – the play merges voices and reshapes stories to create three powerful composite characters, magnificently played in Orla O’Loughlin’s scratch script-in-hand production by Anne Lacey, Audra Onashile and Kirstin Murray.

Each woman’s life-story is rivetting in itself; Murray’s Native American woman lost in the justice system, Onashile’s victim of domestic violence. In the end, though, it’s Lacey – as the older woman, the ex-con now in charge of the house, the 60-year-old still searching for a world where justice and morality mean something to women like her – that hauls this brand-new verbatim text into a whole new dimension of intensity and passion; just a few minutes long, and barely rehearsed, her fierce illumination of McCartney’s closing words is set to stay in my mind, as one of the key performances of this year’s Festival.

Joyce McMillan
Until 26 August
p. 274

ENDS ENDS

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