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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Dogstone/Nasty Brutish and Short

© Mark Fisher - published in the Guardian

The Dogstone/Nasty, Brutish and Short
2 stars / 3 stars

If new plays are a measure of the times, the National Theatre of Scotland's series of Traverse Debuts tells us these are depressing days. After Sam Holcroft's unsettling Cockroach, with its gloomy prognosis that war is a Darwinistic inevitability, we have a double bill of Kenny Lindsay's The Dogstone, about the slow demise of an unemployed alcoholic, and Andy Duffy's Nasty, Brutish and Short, a snapshot of callous exploitation among a disenfranchised underclass. Although different in tone, these two short plays, directed by Dominic Hill, proclaim the death of optimism.

That is specifically the case in The Dogstone, in which Andy Gray plays Danskin, a Highland Don Quixote whose dreamy love of Celtic myth grows increasingly pathetic the more dependent on drink he becomes. His son, played with assurance by Scott Fletcher, grows from the wide-eyed credulity of an eight-year-old, beguiled by his father's tales, to a disillusioned teenager embarrassed by this self-destructive behaviour.

In its favour, The Dogstone paints a vivid portrait of Oban life and a poignant picture of a man's decline. But the picture would be more poignant if Lindsay had given the myths full dramatic life and made a deeper connection with his story, instead of just telling them straight.

Rarely has a title been as apposite as Nasty, Brutish and Short, a throwback to the in-yer-face generation of the 1990s. With a rumbling soundtrack and water-logged design, it is as if Shopping and Fucking had been directed by David Lynch. Hill brings an ominous intensity to this bleak story of a homeless young man seeking help from his brother, who signs him up for an armed robbery and rapes his girlfriend. It is a gothic and disheartening sketch, but Duffy's chillingly credible vision of a soulless manipulator promises powerful things to come.

© Mark Fisher, 2008

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