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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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Monday, November 24, 2008

Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us

© Mark Fisher - published in the Guardian

Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us
Traverse, Edinburgh
3 out of 5

You can tell Paul Higgins has spent time on the set of The Thick of It. The first-time playwright, who played a hate-fuelled press officer in the vicious political satire, rarely lets a line go by without a wounding barb or a sardonic put-down. His language, in this bleak comedy about a dysfunctional working-class family on the cusp of meltdown, is driven, argumentative and brutal.

As a result, Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us is pugnaciously funny, not least in John Tiffany's sharply modulated production. But, along with the three plays preceding it in the National Theatre of Scotland's series of Traverse Debuts, it has such a fear of the future that Higgins can find no escape from the self-destructive world he creates. As domestic banter gives way to morbid gloom, the play's search for tragic redemption achieves only a sense of deflating despair.

The principle cause of the friction is the family's father, a back-seat socialist and bar-room poet whose authoritarian hold over his wife and grown-up children is a front to disguise his being a pathetic alcoholic. Superbly played by Gary Lewis, he is a slippery character able to turn on the charm, or the tyranny as it suits him. With his wife (a hard-bitten Susan Vidler), he has passed on not only intelligence but also impotence to his three children. Despite their talents, they seek quick-fix answers in religion, gambling and drink.

The plot centres on the attempt by the eldest son (a surly Ryan Fletcher) to repay his debts by risking more stolen cash on a high-stakes game of snooker. This attempt to escape his financial problems is a projection of his desperate desire to flee the home - and ultimately, it is just as futile. Meanwhile, after dropping out of the seminary, his younger brother (an amusingly unpriestly John Wark) can no longer promise a life in the hereafter as a release from their earthly torments, and it's not certain that even kid sister Cath (a loveably slow-witted Carmen Pieraccini) believes in communing with the dead.

Higgins deals with all this with a keen sense of theatrical dynamics, vigorous dialogue and ready wit. But, though he has something to say about our society's poverty of expectation, his scenario of an authoritarian father and a young man's crisis of faith is surely a generation out of date, and the story's dead-end despair communicates helplessness more than hope.

© Mark Fisher, 2008

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