Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us" - November 2008

In the final play of the National Theatre of Scotland & Traverse's 'Debuts' season Paul Higgins has successfully created three fully rounded and engaging characters who have brought to life by three strong performances. The problem is, 'Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us' is a play with five characters - and the final two drain the play of much of the strength it would otherwise have had.

John Wark plays younger brother Patrick who has surprised the family by returning home from Seminary a week earlier than expected. It's a well pitched performance which effectively conveys both his character's intelligence and his ignorance of life in the real world. On his return he finds older brother Johnny (Ryan Fletcher) caught up in some bother and desperately trying to raise some cash in a hurry. Fletcher plays Johnny with just the right level of gallusness but with the underlying knowledge that his life is a disappointment. Higgins, Wark & Fletcher have created a believable dynamic between these two and it's responsible for many of the plays strongest moments. As sister Cath, Carmen Pieraccini shines brightest when she is alone, particularly in a delightful scene in candlelight, and throughout the play genuinely inhabits the body of someone with a painful skin irritation.

Unfortunately the depiction of the adult characters fails to match the high standard of the children. Susan Vidler's 'Mum' makes little impact and I found it difficult to envisage her as part of this family set-up. But for me the real problem lay with Gary Lewis's alcoholic 'Dad' who is a fraction too close to Rab C Nesbitt to be taken as seriously as the character should be - particularly once he utters a line dangerously close to Rab's catchphrase. As a result I'm concerned that many of the laughs that the performance generated in the audience were simply of the lets-laugh-at-the-west-coast-scum variety.

Now I have to be fair here and admit that we deprived ourselves of what could have been one of the play's most powerful scenes. We were struggling with the play so much by the interval that leaving was a genuine possibility, so script book in hand I flicked to near the end to decide if it was worth staying for. Sufficiently intrigued we stayed - but we had been spoiled for a revelation that was handled rather nicely.

Even John Tiffany's direction is frustrating with characters spending considerable periods of time in static positions - and as this is staged in the round it leaves sections of the audience seeing the back of character's heads for far too long.

But there are moments that show that Higgins has significant potential as a writer. The relationships between the three younger characters are thoroughly convincing and there are some interesting ideas in the play - the concept of good deeds as currency and the way the family look down on the inhabitants of nearby Stonebridge provided something worth further thought.

Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us runs at the Traverse until Saturday 29th November
Image by Pete Dibdin used with permission.