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Part of the Picture review at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh – ‘absorbing and pertinent’

Part of the Picture at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh Part of the Picture at Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh

Based on the experiences of Sue Jane Taylor, Tom Cooper’s new play tells the story of an artist who visits an oil platform in the North Sea in 1987. She paints the platform and its workers, creating a record of people whose unseen, dangerous work offshore is little understood. A year later, these paintings become inadvertent memorials after fires on the platform kill 167 workers.

Cooper tells the story with great care and sensitivity. An extensive research process shows in a play which, although straightforward and occasionally featuring pedestrian dialogue, is always packed full of detail. There is a huge amount of respect for the workers (we follow a plumber and a crane driver) who suffer from the emotional toll of labour – they’re all resigned to just ‘doing the job’. The fate of the platform has undeniable contemporary resonance after the Grenfell Tower fire, and the vulnerability of the working classes under industrial capitalism is a point made with a keen sense of indignation.

Bletherbox Theatre’s production is slick as oil. Bursts of folk music from Brian James O’Sullivan – by turns jaunty and sentimental – help the pace of the show, and compelling performances by the three actor-musicians make for a thoroughly absorbing work by this young company.

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An absorbing, pertinent story told with gentleness and flair