JOYCE MCMILLAN on CARGO at The Space, Argyll Arcade, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 15.4.13.
2 stars **
SOMETHING IS STIRRING on the top floor of the Argyil Arcade, that elegant Glasgow forerunner of all today’s shopping malls. There’s a spacious cafe-bar; and next door, a small 60-seat black-box theatre. This is The Space, Glasgow’s latest arts venue; and one of its first customers, over the weekend, was Fiendish Plot Theatre, who used both spaces to present Cargo, a double-bill of two 40-minute plays by Cormac Quinn.
The problem, though, is that Quinn’s plays seem like off-cuts from a particularly unpleasant television thriller, drenched in the conventional post-1980’s world-view that there is no law, except that might is right. Cargo 1 is a Spooks-style two-hander in which a nasty, scheming woman has a restaurant rendez-vous with a weird, creepy man, an obsessive friend of her absent partner. The dialogue is a dire mix of embarrassing sexual innuendo and screen-thriller cliches; the acting, on balance, even worse.
In Cargo 2 – in the studio theatre – a young couple expecting their first child fall foul of a ruthless gang of traffickers at the warehouse where he works. The situation makes for a vivid, memorable short drama about how the innocent can only survive by becoming complicit in the crimes of the vicious; and it features three strong performances from Ian Petrie, Ailsa Courtney and Chris Lawrence. Even here, though, there is a a level of protracted violence, in some scenes, that invites despair; and turns the audience into mere voyeurs, drunk on the hard stuff of vicarious violence.