Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)
5-28 August (Not Mondays)
Ross Dunsmore is a playwright to look out for: this play originated in a submission to the Traverse Open Submissions window, during which all plays submitted get a reading: this just goes to show that it’s possible for unknown talent to be discovered and nurtured.
We meet three pairs of people – Steph and Ash, who are fourteen, and still in school; Danny and Nicole, in their later thirties, are expecting their first baby; and Cyril and May, who are both ninety-three. At first their lives seem to be taking separate paths, but as the play progresses they begin to intertwine. Steph is obsessed with her body, fame, and sex; Ash seems to be concentrating on eating chicken, ignoring the obvious advances Steph is making; Nicole is obsessed with her breasts and their role in feeding her soon-to-be-born son, and is terrified of being as bad a mother as her own mother was: Danny is fully occupied in comforting and sustaining her while feeling excluded and neglected by his wife’s focus on the baby; Cyril and May appear to be living in poverty – both are wearing their outdoor clothes in the house, and May is slowly buried under an ever-growing pile of eiderdowns – and Cyril, despite having been in the army that liberated Europe at the end of World War Two, is afraid of the Youth on the street, their dogs, and the knives he feels sure are hidden in their socks, his fear preventing him going to the local shop to buy food.
Food is the constant thread running through the play: actual food – the milk the baby needs, the chicken Ash devours in an attempt to develop the sort of body Steph fantasises about, the food May remembers feeding Cyril when he came home on leave – and the intangible food we all need, of which Dunsmore writes so eloquently in the preface: “We all need to be nourished, to be held, to be loved, but perhaps within us there is an even greater need to love and nourish others in return, and when this need is compromised or devalued by fear or mistrust, as individuals and a society we are diminished.” Each of the characters has their own way of trying to meet their own needs, generally without much success and, in some cases, disastrous results…
This is a cracking play: such closely-observed characters, so well-written, my heart aches for them all. The acting is superb, and I love the clever way the set is used to dovetail the scenes into each other and store necessary props. A bundle of laughs it ain’t [though there was much wit in the dialogue and situations] but it ends with some hopeful signs – reach out to others, really see them and care for them, and life may not be as bleak as sometimes you fear.
The audience applauded mightily. The house was almost completely full – so don’t hang about, go get a ticket!