A SLOW AIR
by Davis Harrower.
Traverse Theatre (Traverse 2) Street EH1 2ED To 21 2011.
10.30am 18 Aug.
1.15pm 19 Aug.
4pm 20 Aug.
6.30pm 16, 21 Aug.
9pm 17 Aug.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 0131 228 1404.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 6 August
Sibling soliloquies well-delivered but demanding a lot from audience.
Nowadays you have to have a Black Othello; but do you need a brother and sister to play siblings? There’s evidence here that it helps, but there again both Howdens, Kathryn and Lewis, are mainstays of the modern Scottish stage. Anyway, any indication of the actors’ connection is particularly helpful when the characters they play are so different.
Author (and director) David Harrower places the more restrained Athol near the source of offstage drama. For the 14 years the two have not met, he’s lived in Houston – not Texas, but near Glasgow airport, and home to a couple of those involved in the 2007 airport attack.
It doesn’t concern him as he runs his floor-tiling business, but it attracts Morna’s son, who wants to stay with him and see the attackers’ home – inside as well as out. Josh clearly takes after his mother, though in supercharged male form. She’s a cleaner in upmarket, uphill Edinburgh, while living downhill in Dalry, when not out looking for someone new in her life.
Though well-written and finely performed, there’s something a mite soporific about the play – with lesser actors it could be more than a mite. Partly it’s that the action is recounted through interleaved monologues, and, fine though that form can be when it’s necessary for a play, it’s now familiar enough to allow suspicion it’s a way to avoid having to create fully-formed characters and explore each voice in a relationship.
Harrower does add a sense the 14-year gap may be coming to an end, as speeches become shorter in the final minutes, but it’s not enough to prevent a sense of frustration that the writer is closer to writing a novella, where at least we could flick, or scroll, back to check on points and confirm facts.
For this is a type of drama which, unless very carefully measured in terms of what’s described, assumes a mighty audience willingness to concentrate. And that’s an effort that demands a sense there will be more returns than A Slow Air (why that title?) – for all its incidental detail – finally provides.
Morna: Kathryn Howden.
Athol: Lewis Howden.
Director: David Harrower.
Designer: Jessica Brettie.
Lighting: Dave Shea.
Composer: Daniel Padden.