Our Fathers

Oct 26 2017 | By More

★★★☆☆   Charming

Traverse Theatre: Sat 21 – Sat 28 Oct 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

Our Fathers, at the Traverse to Saturday and then on tour, has a great deal of talent behind it. The end result is amusing and entertaining but ultimately somewhat too frothy.

This is a collaboration between Nicholas Bone, the artistic director of Magnetic North and Rob Drummond, Traverse Associate Artist, renowned playwright and performer of such unclassifiable works as Bullet Catch and In Fidelity. Both are non-believing sons of the clergy, and the play takes inspiration from Edmund Gosse’s memoir Father and Son – about his relationship with his fundamentalist preacher father.

Rob Drummond and Nicholas Bone. Pic Mihaela Bodlovic

The book is merely a starting point for an exploration of parent-child relationships and religion, with reminiscences of Bone’s bishop father and Drummond’s upbringing as a son of the manse – or Son of a Preacher Man, as his classmates apparently delighted in singing to him.

The onstage personas of the two performers are quickly and sharply delineated. Bone is uptight, fastidious and determined to stay on task; Drummond is the over-keen over-sharer, eager to go off-piste, switch roles and involve the audience.

The trouble is that this does rely heavily on experience of Drummond’s previous appearances in semi-autobiographical works featuring improvisation and misdirection. It also fails to be fully effective this time round; the parts involving the audience seem bolted on, half-hearted and of little value. Moreover, the moments when the two performers appear to argue about the direction the play is taking do not ring wholly true.


The end result is often tricksy for its own sake. It is undoubtedly charming but ever so slightly inconsequential. In the end, questions about religious belief and family ties are tiptoed around rather than confronted head-on, with the narrative meandering towards an ending that has no real philosophical or emotional punch.

Rob Drummond and Nicholas Bone. Pic: Mihaela Bodlovic

There can be no arguing with the staging. Bone and Ian Cameron’s direction is considered and gives the piece the weight the script often lacks. Karen Tennent’s set is both beautiful and functional. Scott Twynholm’s music is deliciously atmospheric, veering from approximations of a glass harmonica to spooky bleeps. Simon Wilkinson’s lighting suggests magically that onstage objects are providing their own radiance.

Such accomplishment merely reinforces the feeling that the play itself is more of a piece of whimsy than a serious exploration; diverting but ultimately of little lasting significance.

Running time 1 hour 15 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Saturday 21 – Saturday 28 October 2017
Daily (not Sun, Mon) at 7.30 pm
Information and tickets: https://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/1262/our-fathers.aspx.

Magnetic North website: www.magneticnorth.org.uk.

Our Fathers on tour 2017:
Sat 21 – Sat 28 Oct Edinburgh
Traverse Theatre
0131 228 1404 Book online
Wed 1-Sat 4 Nov Tron Theatre
0141 552 4267 Book online
Wed 8 Nov Inverness
Eden Court
01463 234234 Book online
Thurs 9 Nov Banchory
The Barn
01330 825431 Book online
Fri 10 Nov Aberdeen
The Lemon Tree
01224 641122 Book online
Sat 11 Nov Greenock
The Beacon Arts Centre
01475 723723 Book online
Wed 15 Nov Glasgow
0141 276 9696 Book online
Thurs 16 – Fri 17 Nov St Andrews
Byre Theatre
01334 475000 Book online
Sat 18 Nov Peebles
Eastgate Theatre
01721 725 777 Book online


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