Aug 7 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Successful and timely

Traverse Theatre (Venue 15) Wed 30 July – Sun 24 Aug 2014

Punchy, poetic and utterly contemporary, the world premiere of John McCann’s Spoiling in Traverse 2 is much more rewarding than its short duration may suggest.

Gabriel Quigley. Photo Jeremy Abrahams

Gabriel Quigley. Photo Jeremy Abrahams

Any drawbacks in this Traverse Theatre Company production are more than overcome, in particular by Gabriel Quigley’s magnificent performance.

After a Yes vote in the referendum, the hugely popular (and heavily pregnant) Fiona finds herself, as Foreign Minister designate, about to give a speech. This is at the historic meeting with the representative of the government of the remainder of the UK – or, as she calls them, the ‘Eton Mess’. However, Fiona is something of a loose cannon, and party worker Mark Henderson is sent to bring her into line.

Multifarious and hugely important questions are thrown up here, from both inside and outside the world of the play, and never really answered. Fiona’s background is tantalising introduced, but never satisfactorily explained – beyond a bewilderingly clunky exposition sequence where Henderson relates to her what he knows of her life.

Furthermore, the question of how someone could be so mistrusted by her party, yet rise so high, remains hanging in the air. At times it all seems like an idea for a shorter play spun out beyond its natural length.

great fluidity and energy

These quibbles pale into insignificance compared to the plus points. There is a flintiness, a humour and a questioning profundity to John McCann’s writing that makes the play fly by. More importantly, the two performances are simply stunning.

Gabriel Quigley’s Fiona is pitch perfect. She is completely believable both as a Scottish politician and as a human being, and brings great truth to everything up to and including the eating of a Tunnock’s teacake.

Spoiling-3 Photograph credit - Jeremy Abrahams(800)

Yes minister. Gabriel Quigley with Richard Clements. Photo Jeremy Abrahams

Richard Clements, as Henderson, is almost as impressive. He conveys the disillusionment of someone who left Northern Ireland in frustration at the lack of political progress, and is torn between the demands of due process and a wish to get at the truth.

Orla O’Loughlin’s direction ensures that the audience are gripped from the first seconds. What could be a static two-hander instead has great fluidity and energy, which allows these two excellent actors to shine.

There is a somewhat unfinished air to the script, but it also feels necessary and thoroughly up-to-date, being set in a very near future that may be overtaken by events. As of now, it feels like a success.

Spoiling is part of the Made in Scotland showcase.

Running time 50 minutes
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED (Venue 15)
Wed 30 July – Sun 24 Aug 2014 (not Mon)
Times vary
Tickets from: edfringe.com/whats-on/spoiling
Traverse Theatre: www.traverse.co.uk


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