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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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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Miracle Man theatre review

Published in The Guardian

The Miracle Man

Tron, Glasgow
2 out of 5

Another month, another Douglas Maxwell classroom play. In the excellent Promises Promises (still on tour), he gave us a teacher at the end of her career who snaps under the pressure of long-buried childhood repressions. In The Miracle Man for the National Theatre of Scotland, he gives us Ossian MacDonald, a thirtysomething PE teacher who is living in the shadow of his father. That man, a famous poet, is dying of cancer, giving his son the possibility of escaping his insecurity complex and reaching a delayed maturity.

In this, the teacher has something in common with the teenagers in his care whose response to the frightening demands of adulthood is to take a pledge of virginity. Theirs is a lusty brand of abstinence, but their denial of sex symbolises a fear of growing up.

Looking like Mackenzie Crook's comic school teacher Mr Bagshaw in his unbecoming tracksuit, Keith Fleming gives a tremendous performance as the ineffectual Ossian who seeks solace in the mythological power of storytelling. He yearns for a narrative that would rewrite his history of mediocrity and a miracle that would transform him into his heroic brother Fingal.

No shortage, then, of meaty raw material and no diminution in Maxwell's way with a funny one-liner. Lots of high-energy performances, too, in Vicky Featherstone's production, notably from Jimmy Chisholm as an eccentric headmaster.

But Maxwell has not fully digested his own promising ideas. He lets every scene run twice as long as it needs to, reducing the impact of the jokes and making it hard to sift important material from background colour. He leaves it unclear how the story of the virginity rings relates to Ossian's reconciliation with his father. It feels more like a writer working out personal demons than a story with universal resonance.

Until Saturday. Box office: 0141-552 4267. Then touring.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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