A powerful portrait of Glasgow from David Harrower
This article is from 2013.
Glasgow: famous for its art, infamous for its criminality. A cliché, perhaps, but one rendered with a compelling combination of insightful poetics, sharp humour and nauseating veracity in David Harrower’s excellent one-woman play. Blythe Duff is totally captivating as Ciara, the gangster’s daughter and gallery owner for whom a proximity to art is a supposedly civilising influence.
From the outset of this Traverse production, directed with lovely fluidity by Orla O’Loughlin, there is a discernible and disconcerting incongruity between Duff’s costume (a kind of overwrought Attic chic) and designer Anthony Lamble’s superb set; a bleak, premonitory brick warehouse, with a single mattress and a sinister metal chain suspended from the ceiling.
As Duff begins to speak – describing a painting, in which a giantess appears to sleep behind the city of Glasgow – one is lulled, briefly, into a false sense of security. Ciara’s sense of the picture, and of the city, contrasts with her husband’s lumpen crudeness (the painting should, he says, be called Attack of the 50-Foot Weegie). We are in comfortable territory, the aesthete and her philistine spouse.
However, the narrative that follows is an unsettling reminder of Harrower’s extraordinary ability to unfurl, from a single character, a drama of universal pertinence. Ciara’s life (in which crime is the only negation of poverty, violence and intimidation the stock-in-trade) is like a Pandora’s box. Harrower lifts the lid, and Duff gives brilliant, lyrical, sardonic, agonised expression to a Glasgow of well-heeled, ignorant art investors, vengeful, honour-seeking drug barons and darkly comic, enduring religious sectarianism. There are other Glasgows, of course, but there is a resonating truth in this one.
Traverse, 228 1404, until 25 Aug (not 12, 19), times vary, £18–£20 (£13–£15).