Review – Ciara

Aug 9 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩ Art of Violence

Bythe Duff as Ciara. Photo © Jeremy Abrahams

Bythe Duff as Ciara. Photo © Jeremy Abrahams

Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)
Thurs 1 – Sun 25 August 2013
Review by Irene Brown

David Harrower’s one-woman play, written for Blythe Duff, is a finely honed exposition of the collision of diverse worlds – written in ear-to-the-ground language.

Ciara’s father Mick was a hard man. A powerful and wealthy hard man of Irish Catholic stock who had worked his way through the ranks of crime in Glasgow from petty theft to living on the profits of drug dealing with plenty of violence in between.

Like his Sicilian equivalents, he kept his family apart from this murky world. They were safe, secure and living in comfort and his wee lassie Ciara was his treasure. A wee treasure thoroughly indulged and utterly shielded. Mick is now dead but his legacy is finally impacting on Ciara. Her bourgeois art gallery is funded on the back of Mick’s secret life with its callous credo and she finally has to confront that harsh reality.

The comeback of a controversial Glasgow artist Alan Torrance and his painting of a giant woman sleeping above the city are pivotal to this saga. Ciara indulges briefly in a sweet danger of imagining a life with this charismatic man but dangerous events overtake her reverie.  She is obsessed with the image of the sleeping woman that can only be imagined. A female sleeping warrior, a local name for Arran hills seen from Ayrshire, or a version in oils of Dhruva Mistry’s Reclining Woman, created for Glasgow’s Garden Festival in 1988 that became known as The Big Wumman, spring to mind.

A kind of love letter to the dear green place

On the big empty warehouse and art space-in-waiting that is the play’s set, Blythe Duff sits dressed in evening elegance with golden sandals, utterly alive to the audience, and magnificently delivers the acute text by David Harrower that he wrote with her in mind. Ciara tells us early on that this is not a confession and that she expects no sympathy.

Buy the script

Harrower’s circular text is a kind of love letter to the dear green place with its sumptuous and poetic descriptions of Glasgow skies and Oscar Marzaroli evenings. It is a roller coaster of words that go from these poetic heights to the vivid descriptions of hideous violence and the crude, senseless sex that is the currency of these deeply macho misogynistic men who can kill and maim in a blink. His sense of spoken language is keen.

Under Orla O’Loughlin’s immaculate direction, Duff captures and deliveres the frank and natural way of speaking, even at its crudest depths. It falls out like the ‘silvery babbling brook’ that is Ciara’s description of herself when she is with the artist.

The play questions male dynastic rules and is an exposé of men’s perpetual blind spot to women’s gifts. Mick’s mantle was destined to have gone to his son Ciaran but he died of a drug overdose and it went to Ciara’s punter husband Bryan instead, who was favoured like a son but lacks the requisite gifts. He was the wrong successor.

Ciara’s near invisible mother is described only as ‘a passing shadow’ with no trace in her daughter. Her daughter with the same small hands, the same smile as her father. Her daughter who looks at the giant sleeping woman and asks: ‘What happens when you wake up, my darling? What happens when you wake up?’. Ciara is now wide awake.

Don’t sleep in and miss this stunning play!

Running time: 1 hr 10 mins
Run ends: Sunday 25 August
Daily (not Mon): Times change daily.
Venue 15: Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Tickets from:
Details on Traverse website:


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