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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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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Hoors, Traverse Theatre review

Published in The Guardian.

Hoors review

Traverse, Edinburgh
2 out of 5

A lot has happened before the start of Gregory Burke's new comedy, and a lot is likely to happen after it ends. But it's hard to maintain your interest in a play in which so little actually happens during the 90 minutes on stage. Every character in Hoors has reached a moment of crisis, but by setting the play so firmly at the still point of the turning world, Burke lands the audience in dramatic limbo.

His conceit has big comic potential. Vicky has been forced to turn her wedding day into a funeral after Andy, her fiance, has died during a hedonistic stag weekend in Hamburg and Amsterdam. It would be a bleak scenario were the young woman not happier without him. His death has opened a new world of opportunity for her.

Returning home for the occasion, her financially successful sister Nikki carries a similar sense of leaving the past behind. When Andy's friends call - partly out of respect for the dead, but mainly for the chance to chat up the women - they, too, come to realise his passing marks the end of an era. For father-of-two Tony, it's a last glimpse of a life he once had; for stuck-in-the-mud Stevie, it's the shock of seeing the world moving on without him.

But by focusing on this moment of transition - a vivid life left behind, an unknown vista ahead - Burke introduces an uncharacteristic feeling of inertia. Perhaps that's why Conor Murphy's set revolves more and more as the play goes on. Taking us from living room to bedroom, this bourgeois domestic interior brings its own circling choreography to Jimmy Fay's production, as if to compensate for the lack of dramatic action.

Unfortunately, its overly grand scale and tendency to start turning before a scene is over also saps much of the energy from Burke's writing. At its best, the playwright's language has the scabrous bite and hilarious attack that helped make Black Watch such a hit. Even as he searches for narrative tension, Burke can still deliver volleys of darkly funny barbs and one-liners.

Michael Moreland (Stevie) and Andy Clark (Tony) are perfectly attuned to Burke's rhythms, driven as they are by a forthright swagger and a need to say the unsayable. Despite spirited performances, Catherine Murray (Nikki) and Lisa Gardner (Vicky) seem to trust the language less, which adds to the production's uneven tone.

A less lavish staging would give greater vent to the upfront force of the script, releasing more of its Ortonesque darkness, but Burke has not set the stakes high enough to do justice to his themes.

© Mark Fisher, 2009

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