Published in the Guardian
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
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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