A Slow Air
Nationhood explored and deplored
This article is from 2011.
In David Harrower’s new play a struggling middle-aged builder (Lewis Howden), haunted by an entirely inadvertent contribution to the Glasgow Airport bombing, is provoked into reflections about his estranged sister (the performer’s real-life sister Kathryn Howden) by the visit of her taciturn, recalcitrant 21-year-old son. The siblings launch into duelling monologues, uncovering the bitter rancorous row about family loyalty, money and relationship to Scottish culture itself that has caused their long separation.
Both are debilitated by a willingness to bury slights and allow them to fester unspoken that Harrower sees as a tendency in Scottish identity. The playwright’s contention that in Scotland even the terrorists are a bit rubbish slightly misses the point that they are everywhere, being a threat vastly exaggerated to ideological ends. Even its possible ideological riposte, at first threatening to be a bigoted, NF racism in the fledgling cartoonist son turns out to be merely an icky kind of voyeurism.
Meantime the text boasts a couple of brilliant character studies in the artisan entrepreneur who has never quite made it beyond petty economic anxieties and his sister, whose feckless, resolute Holly Golightly nonconformity is bound by a repressive desire never to leave Edinburgh. At the centre, there’s a brilliant, subtle authenticity to the sibling performers, who between them play out a breathtaking high-scoring draw of vast and entrancing emotional power.
Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 21 Aug (not 15), times vary, £15–£17 (£11–£12.