Apocalypse beyond the line

Nov 4 2023 | By More

EGTG revive Walt McGough’s Chalk

Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group return this coming week with a revival of American playwright Walt McGough’s intense, 2015 sci-fi fable, Chalk, upstairs at the Assembly Roxy from Wed 8 to Sat 11 November 2023.

The two hander features Maggie, who has survived the end of the world – but it hasn’t really ended. Has it? Stuck in an abandoned building with nearly unlimited supplies, a broken radio and a book of spells, she bides her time and waits for the monsters to leave. But when her daughter, Cora, reappears, Maggie can’t celebrate because something is not quite right.

Esther Gilvray who plays Maggie and Rosella Elphinstone who plays Cora in Chalk. Pic: EGTG

Described as “an intense sci-fi fable”, McGough’s script digs deep into issues of motherhood, responsibility and possession of all kinds as the two women square off – with both of their lives hanging in the balance. All that keeps them separate is a thin chalk circle, hastily drawn by Maggie on the floor.

The EGTG production, a UK premiere, is directed by Hannah Bradley Croall, who most recently helmed David Haig’s Pressure, for Arkle Theatre at the Hill Street Theatre in April this year.

Bradley Croall told Æ: “The dystopian, sci-fi genre isn’t something I’ve really explored before on stage, so it’s been interesting to direct something a little more supernatural. I’m a big fan of a post-apocalyptic setting so it’s a lot of fun to create my own version of one.”

In our own reality, as the world seems intent on exploding, or imploding, with the horrors of two European wars, even as humanity’s place on the planet is in jeopardy due to global warming and we have just come through the bruising weirdness of a global pandemic, a theatrical response seems necessary.

malignant force

“We’re existing in our own dystopia in a way,” says Bradley Croall. “It’s a lot easier to imagine a world in which a malignant force wipes out society now, post-pandemic, than it was previously.

“That feeling of isolation – that I think we can all relate with – makes for an interesting dynamic between the characters, Maggie and Cora. Throw a mother-daughter relationship into the mix and Chalk is a really interesting character study.”

Poster image for Chalk.

Bradley Croall’s previous outings as a director have been with larger casts. Besides Pressure, she directed You Remind Me Of You for Arkle in 2018; and in 2019 took on all the complexities of Joseph Heller’s own adaptation of his straggling, Kafkaesque novel: Catch 22 for EGTG.

“Working with a cast of only two people has been a new experience,” she says. “With such a small cast there’s not really anywhere to hide – for the actors or the director.

“The focus is on both characters all the time so making sure the motivation is there for each actor and that the scene is still interesting with fewer people on stage has been a challenge. Luckily, Esther Gilvray who plays Maggie and Rosella Elphinstone as Cora are both incredible performers so it hasn’t been too hard!”

dark imaginings

Of course, even though there are only two characters on stage in the production, which plays the Upstairs venue of the Roxy for four nights only at 7.30pm, there is a large and unseen team, who are also responsible for what the audience get to experience.

“Thankfully the burden isn’t falling on just the three of us,” acknowledges Bradley Croall. “We have a wonderful team behind the scenes who are helping bring my dark imaginings to life.

“Richard Spiers and Chris Allan are creating the most lovingly crafted dilapidated outhouse one could ask for, Charlotte ter Heide at QMU is creating our apocalypse-ready costumes, and Elissa Webb’s and Dug Campbell’s lighting and sound design will transport audiences to an alternative reality.”

As Hannah Bradley Croall says: “Autumn is a good season for something a little bit dark and twisted – and Chalk delivers on that.”


Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU.
Wed 8 – Sat 11 Nov 2023
Evenings: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.


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