4 stars ****
Summerhall (Venue 26)
THE SECRET THEATRE season at the Lyric, Hammersmith has been making waves in London this year, as a world-class team of actors and writers surprise audiences with a different anonymous play each night, partly chosen by the audience. Here in Edinburgh though, there’s a chance to glimpse just two examples of their work, in A Series Of Increasingly Impossible Acts at Northern Stage, and this brand-new piece at Summerhall by leading British playwright Mark Ravenhill, set in a country where a super-rich elite – permantly dressed in bathing costumes and designer shades – lolls around the poolside, guarding its secrets, and keeping the impoverished masses at bay.
Things start to fall apart, though, when our privileged and drugged-up young hero – jokily played by Steven Webb, in sparkly gold disco-shorts – knocks over a poor man while driving through the favella, and is told, in an act of revelation or revenge, that his wealthy parents are not really his parents, and that he was one of the children stolen from left-wing dissidents following a military coup, and brought up by supporters of the new regime.
Show 6 is a strange, unsettling play, which takes the image of a known human rights catastrophe – the theft of children by the Argentinian military regime of 1976-83 – and weaves it into a dream-like drama of family and political neurosis that sometimes suggests all narratives are equally questionable, a theme which seems dangerously wide of the mark in this case.
The texture of the writing is intense and fascinating throughout, though, in a three-way drama where realities constantly shift, and almost every sentence is interrupted by sudden silence; and it features a terrific performance from Matti Houghton as the woman our hero calls mother, possessive, seductive, sleek with privilege, and dedicated to the idea that her boy must look to the future – perhaps because the past bears no examination at all.