Published in the Guardian
The Arches' Platform 18 award is a barometer of what the next generation of theatremakers is thinking. Where last year's recipients reflected on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, the latest double-bill brings together two writer-directors with an urgent interest in gender. In Poke, Amanda Monfrooe borrows from Greek myth to consider female oppression, while in an all-male Wuthering Heights that owes as much to Kate Bush as Emily Bronte, Peter McMaster considers masculine role models.
Eccentric in conception and execution, Poke is set at the time of the "great madness" when rape has become so ubiquitous that women are grateful if it happens to them only once. In a mythological rocky landscape, the gods choose two women to mother a girl child and send her back into the world of men. In an effort to protect the girl, the women take on the role of goddesses, one representing air and water, the other flora and fauna, but become locked in a destructive environmental battle. It ends badly.
Monfrooe bills the story as an allegory, but without knowing who the women are, it's hard to tell what it's an allegory of. In between the clunky scene changes and odd pauses, however, there are two parallel speeches, poetic and emotionally raw, that are shocking in their contrast. One is about consensual sex, the other about a violent rape. They make everything else look fanciful.
Far more assured is Wuthering Heights, a thrillingly theatrical series of sketches about fathers, sons, machismo, tenderness and identity. It bounces in and out of Bronte's book, preferring to describe the male lineage of Heathcliff's horse than to offer a coherent narrative, and draws equally from the life experiences of the five actors. It's honest, inventive, beautifully choreographed and, even if a tad unresolved, evidence of a bold and distinctive talent.
Arches, Glasgow, until 27 April, 0141 565 1000. At Traverse, Edinburgh, 1–3 May, 0131 228 1404. Details: http://www.thearches.co.uk