JOYCE MCMILLAN on NEW WORKS at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 16.9.13.
4 stars ****
THE ENERGY is terrific, in this new triple bill brough to the Traverse by the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MA students in Classic And Contemporary Text. The formula involves commissioning three leading contemporary playwrights – Rob Drummond, Catherine Grosvenor and David Ireland – to write new one-hour plays for this gifted company; and although only two plays can be presented each evening, the results are always interesting, and sometimes electrifying.
The programme I saw opened with Rob Drummond’s Healing Waters, about a group of women at a creepy religious summer-school for people who want to stop being gay; and if the play’s structure and staging are surprisingly conventional and untheatrical – short cumulative scenes designed to demonstrate just how weird the people running the school are, divided by long fades to black while the cast rearrange the furniture – the theme is so well-chosen, and the acting so energised and committed, that the play storms along in fine style.
And David Ireland’s The Hen Night, which followed, is nothing lewss than a small tour-de-force of contemporary farce, set in the flat of beautiful Helen (a terrific comic performance from Lauren Hurwood) on the evening when she tries to make her hen night a quiet affair, and ends up on the floor of a flat that looks like a train-wreck, handcuffed to a David-Schwimmer-lookalike stripper wearing nothing but his underpants. The pace is furious, the one-liners are brilliant, the six-strong ensemble are superb; and the whole experience combines hilarious stage comedy with an idea that looks as if could be commissioned tomorrow, for one of the best BBC sitcoms in a while.