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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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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Theatre review: Victoria

Published in the Guardian
Dundee Rep
Three stars
DAVID Greig has already demonstrated his range this year with the premieres in close succession of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the West End Dahl musical, and The Events, a study of life after a Breivik-style massacre. Now, for the first time since its RSC debut in 2000, Victoria gets an outing and, in a long, ambitious and rewarding evening, we find the playwright showing yet more versatility as he channels the spirit of Robert Lepage. 

Like the Québécois wunderkind's Dragons' Trilogy, Victoria is an epic journey across time that conjures up echoes, reflections and mirror images as it straddles the generations. Unlike Lepage, however, Greig has a political motive. In contrasting the same Highland community in 1936, 1974 and 1996, he traces the way the mood of the times mutated from the socialist/fascist conflict of the inter-war era to the hippy/capitalist strands of the 70s, to the post-Thatcher exploitation/environmental activism of the 90s. 

The more we see the greed-is-good mantra of the free-marketeers taking hold, the stranger the idealism of the Spanish civil war volunteers becomes. At the same time, Greig suggests such cultural tensions are the norm, whether it's landowner v servant in the 30s or businessman v resident in the 90s. The philosophical justifications mutate, but their essential character (Nietzsche v nature) remains the same. Tying a loose thread through all this is the figure of Victoria. Played by a cool and understated Elspeth Brodie. Now servant, now US geologist, now tycoon's daughter, she is a restless life force, forever torn between the pull of the land and the urge to escape, always searching for a moral purpose that may finally root her. 

Philip Howard's debut production as the Rep's artistic director is marred by an inelegant design and lopsided staging, but it feels like a bold statement of intent: large in cast, epic in scope and challenging in intellect.
© Mark Fisher 2013
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