The Teeth of Haros

Cowards and Kings

Greenside @ Infirmary Street

From 14 August 2017 to 26 August 2017

Rating: ****

Review by Graeme Strachan

Beginnings are important. In Cowards and Kings' production, The Teeth of Haros, the audience are given a stark opening image.

A man with a gun stood over a corpse, visibly shaken, calls for an ambulance on his phone, then turns the gun on himself. This intriguing opening is bolstered as the play continues with Malcolm, the gunman, lost in some form of purgatory with only fragmented memories and harried by an ever-changing figure.

The play takes us through the memories of some of the events leading to Malcolm's murder-suicide. As events unfold, other characters come into focus and slowly, seemingly strange motifs and events begin to become clear.

It's a bold choice to fracture a narrative so completely in a play, relying on the audience to follow it and the actors to carry the action throughout. But Cowards and Kings acquit themselves well.

The portrayals of Malcolm and Will are brilliantly done, two fathers inextricably linked by events, and both seemingly cursed by actions they've taken without sufficient thought. Both manage to remain sympathetic and understandable.

While Will's wife and daughter and the local vicar each have less stage time, they round out the story with some realistic pathos. Lastly, Haros itself, (Haros being the modern rendering of the name of the ancient Greek mythological ferryman, Charon) appears as a being whose appearance changes, allowing the actors to swap in and out of playing him, robed in a grey cloak and acting with a purposeful yet patient manner.

It's a fascinating and touching portrayal of grief, guilt, loss and empathy. By peeling back the layers of horrific events, the origins of actions can be deeper than thought, and that even a moment of finality need not be an end, it can be a beginning. And beginnings are important.