JOYCE MCMILLAN on THEATRE UNCUT at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 17.11.14.
3 stars ***
BORN back in 2010, out of the same wave of indignation against austerity that produced the Occupy movement, Theatre Uncut began life as a brilliant project which invited playwrights young and old to write 15-minute political dramas, and make them available for performance by any group, anywhere, for a week in November each year. Some of the results have been thrilling; but four years on, Theatre Uncut – like the long-fragmented Occupy movement – is beginning to look a shade confused and despondent about where all this is leading, and that confusion seems reflected by the presence – at the Traverse last week, and at Oran Mor from today – of this rather slick 70-minute touring performance based on five of the current Theatre Uncut plays, all by London-based writers, including Clara Brennan, Inua Ellams, and Anders Lustgarten.
If the absence of any sign of the recent Scottish input to Theatre Uncut is puzzling, though – where the heck is Kieran Hurley’s brillilant monologue about the morning after the referendum, a terrific reflection on politics, hope and loss? – there’s no doubting the quality of the performances generated by Faith Alabi, Ruairi Conaghan, Ruth Gibson and Conor MacNeill as they navigate the dystopian and surreal landscapes of contemporary Britain conjured up in these plays, in a strikingly well-choreographed production by Hannah Price. Yet this is an evening heavily dependent on its post-show discussion to create any sense of political possibility, or potential change, around the material it presents; and that suggests an aesthetic that needs some new thinking, to reconnect it with the kind of of political upheaval Scotland has experienced this year.