JOYCE MCMILLAN on CRASH at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 27.10.14.
4 stars ****
WHAT DO we mean, when we describe someone as a psychopath? There’s a range of symptoms, of course, from the complete failure of empathy, to the delusions of grandeur and self-sufficiency. The trouble is, though, that many of these traits are both rewarded and promoted by the economic system that dominates our lives; so that our whole social structure sometimes seems a shade psychopathic, cruel, self-destructive, and out of touch with reality.
The sole character in Andy Duffy’s superb new Play, Pie And Pint monologue Crash – which transfers to the Traverse from Tuesday – is a man right at the heart of this contradiction, a successful market trader whose life begins to disintegrate after his wife is killed in a road accident, while he is at the wheel. In a play that might have been written as a solo counterpoint to Gogol’s The Gamblers, also reviewed this week, the speaker gradually reveals himself as man entirely without moral sentiments, capable of deploying the words other people use to describe compassion, decency, even love, but unable either to feel these emotions, or to act on them.
So for an utterly gripping 45 minutes, we watch James Michie – in a crumpled lounge suit, on a swivelling office chair – chart this character’s decline from apparent normality to horrifying violence; and, even more chilllingly, the process by which his crime goes unrecognised, because his image so perfectly matches that of the respectable and prosperous middle-class citizen. There’s a terrible metaphor here, about the real source of violence in our society; and an intense, troubling and beautifully-shaped piece of writing, from one of Scotland’s most exciting new playwrights.