City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland


By Lorraine McCann - Posted on 06 August 2008

Traverse publicity image for Nocturne
Show details
Traverse Theatre
Almeida Theatre
Running time: 
Matt Wilde (director), Adam Rapp (playwright)
Peter McDonald

I know it’s unworthy, but the first thing I thought when I
walked into the Traverse 2 to see this 100-minute-long one-man show was, "Well,
at least they’ve got rid of those awful foam benches and put in some proper
seats." I can assure you now, though, that even sitting on a cushion made from
six-inch nails, I would still have been eager to see as much as they wanted to
give me of such utterly mesmerising, faultless theatre.

In transferring from the Almeida to Edinburgh, Adam Rapp’s
compelling narrative about a piano prodigy’s family torn apart by a gruesome
accident has also gone from being an ensemble piece to a one-man performance.
Having not seen the original, I can’t comment on whether anything has been lost
in the process, but I can say that it is difficult to imagine a better
treatment of the material than we have now. Peter McDonald is, as it happens,
an actor who simply oozes charisma, so that helps. But at the heart of the
piece is the playwright’s astonishing storytelling power.

The language of the play is a pulsating blend of stark
emotion and casual poeticism. It begins with our "resilient narrator" telling
us a bald fact: "Fifteen years ago I killed my sister." But then it slowly
unfurls and expands, giving us a vividly detailed portrait of what the
17-year-old’s life was like before the accident: his job, his car, his family
home. In one of many beautifully-judged comic observations, he describes the
pallid décor in his parents’ home as "infinite Formica." But against this,
always, in pride of place, is the Steinway piano, "so black it sometimes has an
air of war." And indeed it is a battleground, albeit one that also becomes
eventually a symbol of peace.

As always, there are many, many great shows on in Edinburgh
this Fringe. It is always a privilege to be here, and as a reviewer doubly so.
But if you like your theatre stripped down and straight to the heart, then I urge you to hurry to catch Nocturne while it's here.

Dates and times: August 1-10 (no show Aug. 4), times vary (see Fringe programme)