13 Days Remaining

Wednesday 16th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

Gordon Parsons reviews the fringe offerings at the Traverse Theatre

In Zinnie Harris’s Meet Me at Dawn two women lovers, Robyn (Neve McIntosh) and Helen (Sharon Duncan Brewster), appear to be marooned on an island after surviving a boating accident. But as they consider their position, things are clearly not as they appear.

Meeting a strange woman, their situation becomes increasingly unworldly as Robyn struggles with lost memories of Helen not having survived the accident. As the play develops, we realise that this is a reworking of the Orpheus myth and that Robyn, in her traumatised state, subconsciously gained her wish to be reunited with her lost lover for a day.

In this work about loss and grief, Harris and director Orla O’Loughlin allow the action space to breathe, so that the revelations emerge like some awakening from a dream.

The Whip Hand by Douglas Maxwell confronts a starker reality. Down and out Dougie (Jonathan Watson) has been invited to celebrate his 50th birthday at the upmarket home of his ex-wife Arlene (Louise Ludgate) and her new husband Lorenzo (Richard Conlon).

When, seeking self-respect, he reveals his intention to use the money meant to cover their daughter’s university education to pay into a likely reparations scam, promising him a legacy as the last descendant of a slave owner if he contributes first, the fun starts.

There’s plenty of laughter which turns sour as hidden family rifts are revealed. A splendid cast invest a fairly conventional family-torn-apart-by-money play with an edge that hints at deeper issues.

Two plays engaging with transgender issues, Frances Poet’s Adam and Jo Clifford and Chris Goode’s Eve, make appeals for understanding.

In the former, Egyptian Adam Kashmiry plays himself. Trapped in a girl’s body, his desperate need even approaches cutting off his breasts.

To realise his true masculinity in his repressive home country he journeys to Scotland. Here he faces a bureaucracy demanding he should prove his transgender identity before being given asylum, while he cannot get medical help to prove this until he gets asylum.

The show concludes with a global digital choir of transgender people singing a celebratory anthem to a special freedom.

Eve is a gentler but no less moving treatment of the human need to establish and accept true identities, despite all social constraints. The 67-year-old Jo Clifford reminisces over family photographs as she tells her life story of having lived painfully as a man until she eventually had the courage to come out in her fifties.

Her low-keyed emotional tale is not without humour — there's a hilarious description of repeatedly having to find the only possible loo in the bowels of the unsympathetic New York Met while coping with a never-ending Wagner epic.

It is a positive marker for our times that both plays end in optimism confirming that “we are not our genitalia.”

Two contrasting shows provide very different views of independent women. Nina: A Story About Me and Nina Simone features the most dynamic performer on the fringe.

Josette Bushell-Mingo, with her superb three-man band, does much more than bring the legendary Nina Simone, singer and activist for black civil rights to life.

The performer’s own anger reflects that of her heroine. A superb actress and singer, there is no pretence in her political commitment. She pauses, dramatically contemplating her audience, before exploding into Simone’s songs. The revolution cannot be over: “How the fuck did we come to a time when we have to say black lives matter?”

I hesitate to criticise, let alone analyse, Wild Boar, two-thirds of which consists of three women's bare bottoms giving their opinions of theatre critics.

Audience responses will vary between shock, surprise and hilarity — probably all three in succession.

My own feelings were that the inane theatre critics they single out deserve to get such bum’s rush treatment.