No Nothing

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JOYCE MCMILLAN on NO NOTHING at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 25.4.15.
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3 stars ***

WHEN JIMMY REID AND EDWIN MORGAN died within a couple of days of each other, in the summer of 2010, it seemed like an odd synchronicity, the passing of two key figures in a great generation who had worked alL their lives – through art and politics – to create a new Scotland for the 21st century, passionate, confident, outward-looking, and eloquent.

Now, the wonderful poet and playwright Alan Spence seeks to capture that oddness in this brief lunchtime play, set five years on in some post-death limbo where Reid and Morgan meet and talk.  And if the purpose and framing of the conversation sometimes seems a little contrived – as if the two had initially been brought together to provide a short, slightly clunky  history-lesson for a generation in danger of forgetting – the texture of the writing becomes increasingly powerful, as Spence hones and develops the two characters, and uses the two men’s own words to flesh out the meaning of their lives.

In the end, it’s perhaps the flash and dazzle of Morgan’s poetry that makes the most profound impression: it’s easy to sense Spence, the writer, becoming ever more seduced by Morgan’s brilliance with metaphysics and form, delivered with an almost uncannily Morgan-like wit and self-deprecation by actor Kevin McMonagle.  Steven Duffy also makes an excellent, robust Jimmy Reid, though, capable of his own flights of oratory.  And together, the two men shake hands and head for the future; no longer with us, and yet still overwhelmingly present, on stage at Oran Mor, and in minds and hearts across Scotland.

Oran Mor, Glasgow, final performance today.

ENDS ENDS

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