Bashir Lazhar 3 stars
Assembly George Square (Venue 3)
With a monologue, the playwright usually has to find a reason for their solitary character to talk out loud. Evelyne de la Chenelière, whose Strawberries in January played at the Traverse in 2006, takes a shortcut by making her central figure, the eponymous Bashir Lazhar, talk to a lot of characters whom we can't see. To people the stage with ghosts in this way is an irritating technique – like a proper play done on the cheap – that undermines the otherwise strong theatricality of Piet Defraeye's production for Canada's Wishbone Theatre.
Playing an Algerian supply teacher in a Montreal school, actor Michael Peng performs on a blackboard that extends across the whole stage and leaves chalk marks everywhere from the furniture to his own suit. He is an educational enthusiast but is struck by an irony that is hard to reconcile. After he has witnessed such murderous destruction and suffered so much personal loss in his native country, it is difficult for him to see the suicide of a Canadian teacher as anything other than an act of indulgence.
It makes for an interesting culture-clash drama which, with an added theme about the tension between true learning and bureaucratic indifference, would have been even better with a few more actors.
Until 28 August
© Mark Fisher 2011
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