The Artist Man and the Mother Woman, Traverse, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Traverse Theatre Company
Morna Pearson (writer) Orla O’Loughlin (director) Anthony Lamble (designer),
Daniel Krass (composer / sound designer), Richard Howell (lighting designer),
Marta Mari (assistant director)
Garry Collins (Geoffrey Buncher), Anne Lacey, (Edie Buncher), Lewis Howden (Thomas), Molly Innes (Clara, Woman A & B), Lynn Kennedy (Evelyn)
Running time

Oedipus is alive and well and living in Morayshire. According to Morna Pearson’s latest play, The Artist Man and the Mother Woman, he is in the form of art teacher and mammy’s big tumshie, Geoffrey Buncher (Garry Collins).

Geoffrey and his Mother, Edie (Anne Lacey) live contentedly, if oddly, together and while Geoffrey is an adult with a job, he is still a gauche and lolloping laddie being patted on the heid (and possibly elsewhere) by his mother.

One day he reads in a poll that he, being an artist and a teacher, could be something called ‘sexy’ and decides to get a girlfriend. As his relationship with his mother is the only significant one he has ever had, his decision unleashes feelings that have thus far been drowned in drinks of Ribena, sooked in to a melted Murray Mint and slaistered under lashings of raspberry (or strawberry) jam on his breakfast toast.

Pearson’s text, brilliantly written in her local dialect of NE Scots, had the audience on board and roaring with laughter from the get go. The ostensible D C Thomson style of couthiness masks the characters’ darker leanings as they use language and double entendre that is worthy of a cuff on the lug from P C Murdoch. Her wonderful sense of the ridiculous continues a tradition in Scottish writing and humour from the likes of Chic Murray, Ivor Cutler and the comedy team that was Absolutely.

In this tale that is as black as the waistcoat of thon Earl of Hell, she slowly, slowly shifts the tone from couthie to creepy to the shocking and sobering dénouement, that is the dangerous result of narrow living having stayed deeply dyed in narrow minds.

There is some great upbeat music before the show with an overall love theme, featuring among others the aptly chosen "You Always Hurt the One You Love".

The domestic set from designer Anthony Lamble, with its various wee cameos like an old-fashioned sketch show, makes full use of a stage that usually belies its depth.

The four strong cast bring their own strength to their characters but Garry Collins cuts a magnificent tragi comic geek. From his gey near leaving for work without his trousers on, to his innocent love making with Clara (Molly Innes), where he strokes her as though he’s stroking a dug and looks as though the simultaneous “feathery nasal breath” might be too big an ask of him, he is the king of naïveté.

His offering his ripped out Harlequin’s heart in a painting to Evelyn (Lynn Kennedy) adds to his tragedy. But it is the dancing scene with Clara that is little short of clown genius where his depiction of gawky physicality is supreme.

It was a poignant and thought-provoking moment when the late and consummate Michael Marra’s much loved song Hermless was played at the end of the performance. Poignant as a salute to Scotland’s wonderful wordsmith and thought provoking because Geoffrey turned out to be very far from hermless.

Dates & times

Thurs 1 – Sat 17 November (7.30pm) (not Sundays or Mondays) Matinees: Sat 3, Thu 8, Sat 10, Thu 15 & Sat 17 November (2.30pm) Previews: Tue 30 & Wed 31 October Tickets: Sun - Thu & matinees


£15.50 (£11.50 concession), (£6 unemployed).

Fri & Sat £17.50 (£15.50 concession).

Preview tickets: £11 (£6 concession)