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Diamond review at Underbelly, Edinburgh – ‘underdeveloped road-trip play’

Diamond at Underbelly, Edinburgh (production images were not available)

This new play by BAFTA-winning director Beryl Richards is part of the BBC Arts Debut scheme. It’s the most ambitious of the three remaining plays (one was cancelled at the last minute), but it still feels unfinished.

Jordan, a successful American surgeon (Eoin Lynch), never knew his mother. When he discovers that she’s died and bequeathed him a camper van, he sets off on a road trip with an enigmatic young hitchhiker (Amy McAllister) in tow, a journey that inevitably leads him to reassess his feelings for the woman he still resents for abandoning him as a baby.

Richards’ play is strongest when exploring the community of hippies and ageing drifters who knew Jordan’s mother. There’s colour and warmth in the writing in these scenes, a quality enhanced by the performances of Nancy Baldwin, Jenny Lee and Stuart Milligan.

But both the trope of the kooky young girl who shakes up an older man’s life and the vaguely supernatural conclusion are over-familiar and some of the dialogue is incredibly on-the-nose. Jordan is forever telling us exactly what he’s feeling: that because he didn’t know his mother, he doesn’t know, and can never know, himself.

Director Jane Moriarty never finds a way of making the American road-trip format work on stage. The structure makes it feel quite bitty and televisual and there’s little sense of motion. The play, like all the pieces in this scheme, seems in desperate need of further dramaturgical development.

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Ambitious but underdeveloped road-trip play, part of the BBC Arts Debut scheme