Fusion - 10
Short plays from 6 Borders writers. Eloner Crawford, Tom Murray, Alan
Pow, Lis Lee, Tom Bryan and Jules Horne
Director - Stewart Aitken
Company - Cross Country Theatre Company
Venue - Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Dates - 7 - 9 June at 7:30pm
Tickets - From Traverse Box office 228 1404
Running time - 2 hrs and 30 mins including 15 min interval
Reviewers - Thelma Good & Kenny Morrison
This selection of plays fits beautifully together and, though mixed in styles and depth, is definitely worth the trip. The cast, Simon Crouch (also Artistic Director), Matthew Burgess and Kathleen Quinn, well portray in rich Border tongue the many characters, both realistic and surreal, the writers have conjured up. The set and costumes, placed on a floorcloth map of the Borders and its river Tweed, excellently serve with quick adjustment for past and present, indoors and out.
Eloner Crawford's Dylan Thomas inspired choral Border Tapestries is both lyrical and telling, showing us this area where good news is rare, and chimneys stand redundant, telescopes to the sky. This with three gentle, humorous and illuminating pieces, Demise, The Mair and Last Tango In Hawick by Alan Pow, all set on a Hawick park bench punctuate the 6 mini plays. The local bench sitters, an old man, a middle age woman and a youth who always goes on about rival Gala (Galashiels) attractions gives us border folk and their speech responding to the changes - Common Ridings (women), trains ( to return but just to Gala) and a proposed Arts Centre.
Throughout Sir Walter Scott's silhouette stands, ghostly, at the back of the stage - master of his Borderland and subject of Tom Murray's I Am Sir Walter Scott, I bid you welcome. Quite literally immortal, vampire Scott is wittly portrayed forever sucking the blood out of new writing in Scotland. Murray's second short, Alison Park explores a similar theme. Another great man of Scotland, the explorer Mungo Park leaves his wife, Alison and young son to discover Africa. Using captivating language so that Alison Park's emotions haunt the play, it looks at the cost of being great, and what one leaves behind, though this play's context could be clearer. Murray's final piece, Sex Maniacs Guide to The Borders explores the failing tourist industry in Scotland. Having a dig at Freud, he suggests a Scottish Bordello Borders, Smaleholm Tower its erect centre. A ditty really, but well realised, finely portraying the boredom inherent in an upbringing in a small border village.
In Tom Bryan's The Eighth Deadly Sin, ( Editor - Kenny's favourite) the old lady sets the scene, on the 95 bus to Hawick from Edinburgh. The bus driver and a quite wicked, but certainly with his heart in the right place, old man, repeat the story of a young boy thrown off the bus for farting! We hear three very different accounts of the same event with some fine one-liners from the old man, well acted by Matthew Burgess . This is genuinely funny, not just toilet humour, showing the darker side of maniac locals in small Scottish towns.
The Linton Worm by Lis Lee has Mrs Scott, possibly the only reliable witness of the fable being, seeing off not just Cockney reporter Bright of the Sun. Here as in many of the pieces the strength of local connections is shown, still working despite influences from outside. The final play, Jules Horne's Pawlie Paitterson's Auld Grey Yaud, based on the tradition Hawick poem, has the yaud or horse , as two actors - the body, Quinn, and the mind, Burgess.Both are in the skin of the beast waiting to go to the Killing Hoose, and find confusing freedom for the first time. The minister offers a wing and a prayer, the old woman a name, and the yaud offers all of itself in the end, reminding us of the waste of flesh and body this year of Foot and Mouth. Cross Country Theatre are to be congratulated on this well named Border Fusion showing the strength of creativity and spirit in this oft over looked struggling region, and taking us into the heart of the Borderlands.
©Thelma Good & Kenny Morrison 7 June 2001
Kenny reviewed the playwrights Tom Bryan and Tom Murphy, Thelma the rest.