PPP: Mischief

Oct 11 2016 | By More

★★★★☆  Substantial

Traverse Theatre: Tue 11 – Sat 15 Oct 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is a real emotional heft to Mischief, the latest Play, Pie and a Pint production at the Traverse, aided by impressive performances and noteworthy direction.

On a Scottish island, Ronnat and her daughter Brigid tend the cows belonging to the monastery on a nearby island. Their isolation is ended when Fari, a sailor from the Northern Isles, is washed up on their shore.

Alison McFarlane, Elspeth Turner and David Rankine. Photo: Leslie Black

Alison McFarlane, Elspeth Turner and David Rankine. Photo: Leslie Black

Set in some unspecified period of what is often mistakenly referred to as the ‘Dark Ages’, the play deals partly with the coming of Christianity to Scotland. This is represented by the unseen brotherhood of monks whose penchant for fancy dyes to make their illuminated manuscripts is exceeded only by their love of unnecessary rules.

Many of these rules (whether by accident or by design) reinforce a patriarchal system that represses and replaces the more female world of goddesses, charms and potions that the two women represent. This is evoked in a way that is far from heavy-handed, with a liberal sprinkling of humour such as Fari’s incredulity on hearing the monks should only have one deity for everything – and his insistence that she must be very busy.

Counterbalancing this is a great deal of language that is heavy with meaning, with some cleverly loaded metaphors, both earthy and mystical. Alison McFarlane (Brigid) and the excellent Elspeth Turner (Ronnat) do justice to the dialogue with two wonderfully judged performances, with David Rankine (Fari) providing strong support.

thoroughly effective

Gerda Stevenson’s direction, meanwhile, is an utter joy, bringing out each facet of the text and making use of some apparently simple but thoroughly effective devices. James Wilson’s sound design and music adds the right amount of portentousness.

Much of this is just right. The most obvious fault is that too much is crammed into too short a time; this could equally be said of Gemma Patchett’s set, which is a little too fussy and expansive for its own good.

Being overly ambitious is not a severe drawback. A more serious criticism is that the set-up is so successful, and so freighted with meaning, that the slightly more melodramatic and predictable nature of what follows is something of a let-down.

However, this is an extremely successful production, and Stewart clearly is a promising playwright.

Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 11 – Saturday 15 October 2016
Lunchtimes: 1pm, Evening performance Friday 14, 7pm.
Tickets and details: https://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/943/ppp-mischief.aspx


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