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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. My feature writing covers celebrity interviews, human interest stories, restaurant reviews, travel articles and opinion pieces, as well as theatre, music and art reviews. Publications I write for include The Guardian, Scotland on Sunday, the Sunday Times, The Herald and The Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Friday, November 09, 2012

The Artist Man and the Mother Woman, theatre review

Published in the Guardian
Traverse Theatre
Three stars

THE wag who described Morna Pearson as the Dr Dre of Scottish theatre was probably exaggerating. The Elgin-born playwright is no gangsta rapper, though you can't deny the social dysfunction and casual violence of her view on the world.

Her 2006 play Distracted was about a boy damaged by the death of his junkie mother and preyed on by a sex-starved older woman. Likewise, her latest, The Artist Man and the Mother Woman, a vivid 100 minutes, deals with incest, assault, stalking and murder.

For all that, it's less Straight Outta Compton than an episode of Ronnie Corbett's Sorry! reimagined by David Lynch. Pearson gives us grim human behaviour aplenty, but offsets it with toe-curlingly black comedy and an air of heightened weirdness.

We meet Geoffrey Buncher, a thirtysomething art teacher, who is frozen in a state of pre-adolescent naivety by Edie, his obsessive-compulsive mother. Like one of Enda Walsh's more neurotic characters, Edie has dealt with her fear of the outside world by sticking to a rigid routine. Meals are toast and jam, washing is in lavender bubble bath, bedtime is strictly 8pm. So far, she has kept Geoffrey under similar control, but now, his belated sexual awakening is unleashing forces neither of them can cope with.

The strength and weakness of the piece is in its cartoonish distortion of reality. Pearson's universe is compelling, yet at one remove from our own. The play has a captivating internal logic, but as a reflection of behaviour we may actually recognise, it is fanciful. As a result, it tapers to a conclusion that should be explosive.

In her debut production as artistic director, Orla O'Loughlin allows the strangeness to be constrained by an overly literal set, but her cast, led by Garry Collins and Anne Lacey, are superb, rooting Pearson's ear for Doric poetry in a disturbingly credible world.
© Mark Fisher, 2012 (pic: Robbie Jack)

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