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Grain in the Blood review at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow – ‘a tense rural drama’

Sarah Miele in Grain in the Blood. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
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Shaped with cunning, and delivered with drive by director Orla O’Loughlin, Rob Drummond’s new play Grain in the Blood is a tight piece of dramatic writing that also possesses a mercurial attitude to its moral dilemmas.

There’s nothing fancy about Blythe Duff’s Sophia, grandmother to 12 year-old Autumn. She’s negotiating with her son Isaac’s parole officer to allow him to come home to her remote farm for Autumn’s birthday. She is a rock solid foundation around which the rest can turn.

Spare writing and concise delivery allow Duff and Frances Thorburn as Autumn’s aunt, Violet, to lay down the raw basics of rural life, into which John Michie as the parole officer, Burt, ventures. Andrew Rothney brings an atavistic sense of suppressed violence to Isaac, as the truths of his home life’s harvest rituals emerge.

Sarah Miele brings a real sense of the other as young Autumn, terminally ill unless a familial kidney donor can be found. She combines it with the shocking directness of one who knows of their impending demise.

Behind these five deeply rounded performances – even Michie’s stiffness sits with his character’s own background – the production team has created a setting that only ever serves the script. Fred Meller’s clever sliding door set rounds out the rural tone while Simon Wilkinson’s lighting allows the whole to slip between realism and symbolism – aided and abetted by Michael John McCarthy’s often ethereal sound.

And just when you think Drummond has driven himself into a blind alley, he pulls out an ending which switches the whole focus and reality of the preceding 90 minutes.

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Hidden rituals rub up hard against moral dilemmas in a tense rural drama