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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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Friday, October 19, 2012

Sex and God, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Magnetic North
Four stars


IMAGINE a string quartet, but with actors instead of musicians. In place of a score, a set of overlapping monologues. As they riff on similar themes, they could be from a family of musical instruments, each with her own timbre and pitch, but each part of the ensemble. Phrases echo like a melody from one performer to another, sometimes dissonant, sometimes in harmony, taking on different meanings according to their setting.

That's what Linda McLean's beguiling new play for Magnetic North is like. Not for the first time, McLean has expressed her artistic purpose through the form of her work. She conducted similar experiments in 2010's Any Given Day, which communicated the sensation of loss by dropping two main characters after the first act, and 2007's Strangers, Babies, which showed different aspects of one woman's character by placing her in a series of unrelated scenes.

Here, in a production directed with a conductor's attention to detail by Nicholas Bone, she tackles themes such as pregnancy, domestic violence, male domination and female independence in an impressionistic collage of voices. Her four characters speak out from different points in the 20th century; they have no direct relationship to each other, but are united in a shared female experience of struggle against the odds.

Their stories are ordinary, but as they resonate with each other, they say something bigger about the female experience of sexuality, motherhood and survival. The strands of the play are not always easy to follow, but in the moment, it is as beautiful and delicate as a chamber concert.

© Mark Fisher, 2012 (pic: Colin Hattersley)

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