Realism (5 stars)

  • 23 August 2006

This article is from 2006.

Anthony Neilson’s new play seems on the face of it to construct a world in which a good deal happens. Yet the piece, being about precisely what it says on the tin, is in fact quite static, at least intellectually, for it occurs entirely in the mind. This is no great revelation to a potential audience, one suspects, since Miriam Buether’s clever design, showing the everyday objects from an average Joe apartment half buried in shifting sands seems to indicate a world of transient reality from the start. Yet, if this is another exploration of subjectivity, it is a brilliant one.

In it, Stuart (Stuart McQuarrie) lazes about speculating on his past life. A lost mother (Jan Pearson) is part of his thinking process, as are the absence of his cat, Galloway, and his reflections on politics, the arts and the nature of his friendship with his mate (Paul Blair). But most of all he speculates, as perhaps we all do, on the one that got away, the girlfriend he left long ago (Shauna McDonald) as well as the one he currently sees but is separated from (Louise Ludgate). Meanwhile, he’s troubled by an alter ego that gets him into every kind of scrape (Matthew Pidgeon) and memories of his dad (Sandy Neilson).

This is a piece that quests through the interior self of all of us, creating a space in which we watch the free play of a man’s unconscious. He plays out in fantasy his own role in Question Time, where the politicians join him on his couch and are impressed by his views on the smoking ban, while his ‘What a Bunch of Fucking Cunts’ song, a glorious number complete with un-PC and inexplicable black and white minstrels is as funny a piece as you’ll see on the Fringe. This is an immense and moving piece of theatre, directed by its author to profound effect, and featuring stand-out performances. A Festival highlight. (Steve Cramer)

Royal Lyceum Theatre, 228 4848, until 19 Aug, 7.30pm (matinees 17 & 19, 2.30pm), £7.50-£24.

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