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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, March 16, 2011

Sweetness, theatre review

Published in the Guardian
3 stars 
One man produces semen that smells like a dead seagull's armpit. On the other side of the valley, the boils on his brother's chest seep fluid that tastes like nectar. As with the cancer that affects one and the heart complaint that threatens the other, it feels as though a metaphor is looming; something, perhaps, about inner decay mirroring the rotten relationship between these two men, estranged since 1959.

In Kevin MacNeil's adaptation of Hummelhonung by novelist Torgny Lindgren, the symbolism is not easy to interpret, but the details add a funny, magical-realist twist to a tale that could otherwise slip into Beckettian gloom. Snowbound, Matthew Zajac's Archie keeps a vengeful eye on the smoke from his brother's chimney, hoping any interruption will signal his death. Bent double with stomach cancer, he refuses medication on the grounds that it would represent a moral victory for his rival.

Looking like a bloated Father Jack from Father Ted, Sean Hay's heavily padded Murdo is a more benign figure, weird bodily habits notwithstanding. "Sweetness sweetens your entire being," he says with a chuckle. His obsession with Archie is no less debilitating, however, as he allows the memory of his dead son and departed wife to fester like one of his scabs.

Lynne Verrall's too-cool Kate, an academic stranded in the snow, hears prosecution and defence from these two unreliable narrators and pieces together the story of their falling out. Her research into the life of St Christopher, a protector against sudden death, places her in the role of heavenly mediator.

The Dogstar production suffers from clumsy transitions, but the vivid and strange characterisations see it through. (Pic: Leila Angus)
© Mark Fisher 2011
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