Review: For Once, Traverse, Edinburgh

For Once

Traverse, Edinburgh

Until April 14

 

Review by Mark Brown

 

There was a discernible frisson of anticipation at Wednesday night’s opening of Tim Price’s For Once at the Traverse. Not only was it the Scottish premiere of a critically acclaimed debut play, but it was also the Edinburgh audience’s first chance to sample the work of the Trav’s recently appointed artistic director Orla O’Loughlin (who directed this production for her previous company, Shropshire-based Pentabus).

However, no sooner has this middle-class kitchen sink drama begun, than everything begins to feel curiously familiar. Price’s play – which revolves around a cataclysmic car accident in which three teenage boys were killed and Sid (whose family we observe) was blinded in one eye – has a combination of naturalistic domesticity and humane pathos which came to characterise the closing years of the tenure of the last-but-one director of the Traverse, Philip Howard.

Constructed of criss-crossing monologues, the piece is reminiscent, structurally, of David Harrower’s slightly disappointing 2011 Edinburgh Fringe play A Slow Air. Like Harrower’s drama, For Once seems more like a work of prose fiction than a theatre piece. As Sid’s parents – schoolteacher April and desk worker/village committee man Gordon – unfold the marital crises which have been both emasculated and exacerbated by the crash, the atmosphere is like that of a derailed episode of 1970s TV sitcom The Good Life. The repressed sexuality surfaces intriguingly in Geraldine Alexander’s April, but the implied homosexual urges of Gordon (Patrick Driver on inflexibly upright form) rings about as true as Richard Briers with nipple piercings.

There is some neat, gentle humour in Price’s writing, which is given particularly lovely expression by Jonathan Smith (whose Sid often seems like a younger incarnation of comedian David Mitchell). Ultimately, however, this is a modest production of a modest play; and hardly the most exciting start to O’Loughlin’s Traverse career.

This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on April 8, 2012

© Mark Brown

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