Theatre review: SpectreTown
Theatre review: SpectreTown

Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: SpectreTown, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Joyce McMillan. ★★★ It’s a brave, complex and ambitious show, this latest production from Elspeth Turner’s Edinburgh-based Stoirm Og company, co-produced by Cumbernauld Theatre. Set in and near Aberdeen a century ago and today, Turner’s 80-minute play pursues Stoirm Og’s interest in Scotland’s languages, telling …

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Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: SpectreTown, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Joyce McMillan.

★★★

It’s a brave, complex and ambitious show, this latest production from Elspeth Turner’s Edinburgh-based Stoirm Og company, co-produced by Cumbernauld Theatre. Set in and near Aberdeen a century ago and today, Turner’s 80-minute play pursues Stoirm Og’s interest in Scotland’s languages, telling a complex time-shifting tale of Meg and Doddie, an engaged couple working on a big Aberdeenshire farm in the early 1900s, and Nan and Stanley, their modern-day counterparts, who meet in the Aberdeen charity shop where Stanley volunteers.

The language therefore shifts in complex ways from a rich traditional Doric to modern north-east street vernacular. The story is also fiercely complicated, involving a kist (chest) full of memories that trigger a kind of time-travel and precious reel-to-reel recordings from the mid-20th century of Doddie, once a ploughman linked to one of the north-east’s ancient rural brotherhoods of horsemen.

In the end, the play begins to collapse under the weight of its own multiple themes, which range from political radicalisation and religious fundamentalism in early 20th-century rural Scotland, through the politics of sexual frustration and violence, to the strange interaction between emasculated, unemployed Stanley, his boss Izzy, and Nan, who earns her living as a lap-dancer.

But the show has some haunting elements of design, a fine score played live by composer Matt Regan, three strong performances from Bridget McCann, Mark Wood and Elspeth Turner herself, and some elegant direction from Matthew Lenton of Vanishing Point; and audiences in Scotland now have a chance to see it in local venues across the country, as it tours from Greenock to Inverness and Buckie, during September.

Assembly Hall (Venue 35) until 31 August / listings

Published in The Scotsman on 27 August 2015

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