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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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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sea and Land and Sky, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

Sea and Land and Sky

Tron, Glasgow
2 out of 5

Abigail Docherty's play about nurses in the first world war is light on plot and heavy on reflection. At its best, it captures something of the carnage of Sarah Kane's Blasted and the desolation of Brecht's Mother Courage and her Children. Its strength is in the strange, hallucinatory air that undercuts the period realism, although it is a quality that alienates as much as it intrigues.

The winner of the Tron's Open Stage competition, the play is based on the diaries of nurses sent to the Russian front in 1916. It begins in familiar culture-clash territory as volunteers from different social backgrounds are thrown together and left to cope with each other, the journey to the frontline and the demands of a taxing job.

This is a conflict in which limbs are severed, dysentery is rampant and blood is everywhere. One nurse warms her hands by plunging them into a dead man's innards. Even with the unconvincing corpses of Andy Arnold's production, this is a vile and violent vision.

By focusing on the women, Docherty highlights not the politics but the messy, corporeal consequences of war. She takes it a step further by examining the fighting's toll on mental health, breaking with stiff-upper-lip convention to suggest the women would make rash sexual advances on the soldiers, go on suicidal rescue missions and generally display Lady Macbeth-style neuroses. Despite the play's factual basis, much of this is historically implausible but, as the whole piece takes on a delusional air, it does have a metaphorical power. Less satisfying is the way the characters blur into one beneath their various psychoses, and develop hardly at all once the madness sets in.

Until 23 October. Box office: 0141-552 4267.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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