Group Portrait In A Landscape, Traverse Theatre, Review

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Traverse Theatre & Edinburgh University's ESRC Genomics Forum
Peter Arnott (writer), Orla O'loughlin (director)
James Bryce (Moon), Sandy Neilson (Rennie), Janette Foggo (Edie), Kim Gerard (Emma), Ben Winger (Frank), Jordan McCurrach (Charlie), Scott Fletcher (Will)
Running time

Peter Arnott is now at the end of a unique year-long stint as Resident Playwright, based at the ESRC Genomics Forum. This represents a partnership with the Traverse Theatre that has explored the social, ethical, political and philosophical implications of the recent mapping of the human genome, through opening up a series of creative discussions across a number of different disciplines.

Update: Group Portrait in A Landscape rehearsed reading (October 2013)

The starting point was the genomics research and the end point will be a full length play that Arnott is now under commission to write for the Traverse Theatre Company.

Introducing tonight’s entertainment, Arnott explained that part one of his writing process had been presented at the end of last month, in the form of ‘a ‘Sci-Fi-Comedy-Cabaret’ called ‘Talent Night In The Fly Room’. This had explored some of the issues arising out of his reading of the genomics research. Tonight’s rehearsed reading represented part two, entitled ‘Group Portrait In A Landscape’, and was to be ‘an exploration of characters’.

With only this tiny bit of tantalising information, it began. The play was set in a family home and took place during one significant afternoon and evening. The focus, as promised, was on the interactions between the different characters: what they revealed - or kept hidden - about themselves; who they chose to disclose particular aspects of themselves to and the different interpretations of each character that such decisions elicited. Ending with the tragic death of the son, Will, from a cerebral haemorrhage, one was left inevitably with questions about where the characters would go from here.

Orla O’Loughlin, the Traverse’s recently appointed new director, invited the audience to comment and ask questions up in the bar afterwards - and this seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. Having been rather bowled over by the ‘part one’ referred to earlier, and now completely hooked on this new story so far, I yet struggled to understand how the two parts were linked.

I eventually plucked up the courage to ask Peter Arnott himself, ‘What connected the two pieces?’ ‘Me!’, he answered, going on to explain that he is still pondering the ground his new play will cover but it is likely to follow the characters from Group Portrait as they ask ‘why?’ in relation to Will’s untimely death and through this explore and experience some of the issues surrounding genomics.

Knowing it is going to be perhaps another year before we get to see the final play, it was encouraging to hear that there may be more opportunities for audiences to witness further steps in this creative process in the near future.

This rehearsed reading was performed on 17th April for one night only