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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Nova Scotia review

** Traverse, Edinburgh

Mark Fisher
Tuesday May 6, 2008
The Guardian

The problem with Nova Scotia is the same problem faced by its central character, Phil McCann. The first time we met this irascible artist was as a quick-witted young colour mixer in The Slab Boys, John Byrne's late-70s comedy set in a 1957 carpet factory. Then McCann was the centre of attention, an angry young man full of violent potential, cornered by the deadening restrictions of the adult world. Fifty years on, the opposite is true. His most creative years are behind him, his younger wife is a Turner prize nominee and his best mate, Spanky Farrell, has enjoyed a far more interesting life as a hedonistic rock star.

So while McCann still has plenty to be frustrated about, he is no longer master of his own destiny. It opens up interesting ground for a comedy about an active but aging generation - Nova Scotia is full of frank gags about illness and death - but it also leaves a dramatic hole at the centre of the play.

There is no shortage of frenetic action as a film crew arrives to shoot a pop video, an arts reporter tries to conduct an interview and long-lost friends appear out of the blue, but McCann's role is passive. He initiates nothing.

So despite Byrne's vivid characters and first-rate performances in Paddy Cunneen's production, Nova Scotia never gets to the point. The action is propelled not by McCann's dilemma, but by a series of farcical accidents, missed planes and lost mobiles. The result is that the climactic revelation of McCann's incestuous parentage carries no dramatic weight; it is a private shock for the character (excellently played by Paul Morrow), instead of a bombshell to turn the play upside down.

· Until May 24. Box office: 0131-228 1404.

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