Kieran Hurley’s play makes a triumphant return to the Traverse for this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Premiering in December last year and enjoying a run at the Soho Theatre, Orla O’Loughlin’s assured production has a new cast for this homecoming run.
Hurley’s play asks some essential questions about art and ownership, truth and storytelling, and it does so in the form of a two-hander that is in and of itself emotionally engaging and deftly written.
After a chance meeting on Salisbury Crags, playwright Libby (Shauna Macdonald), who at 40, has ceased to be commissioned, develops a friendship with teenage Declan (Angus Taylor).
They live in the same city but their lives are worlds apart. He’s grown up hard, has known emotional and financial poverty, and is initially bewildered by her. But gradually they become close. He confides in her. She thinks he has genuine artistic talent but is also determined that she should be the one to tell his story.
Is she giving him a voice or mining his life for material? Again and again the play invites us to question where the lines lie.
The acting throughout is superb. Taylor is exceptionally good, radiating frustration, unease and anger, but also youth and vulnerability.
Macdonald’s role is more restrained but she’s equally strong at evoking the complexity of the character, and the interplay between, the slow-flowering trust and the eventual sense of betrayal, is beautifully judged.
The whole thing is audacious and acutely self-questioning, knotty, provocative, and astute in its exploration of the cannibalistic act of writing.