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Markings

Dominic Francis
Southwark Playhouse
(2004)

What would anyway be a harrowing play about inherited mental instability has been handed added poignancy by recent news. It must be entirely coincidental that this play is set on Morecambe Sands and includes references to cockle picking and a young man who gets stuck in quicksand.

He is Edward, a student who is struggling to come to terms with himself, his sexuality and a voice that seems to belong to his dead grandfather. Simon Muller is convincing in the part, especially when Edward begins to wrestle with inner demons that his grandfather had also faced.

Two generations earlier, we see serious, highly-strung Cecil (Dean Ashton) and strong Beattie (Ruth Gibson), apparently happy newly-weds. He is an RAF squaddie-poet with ambitions to get an education. She is a strong-minded woman who bears a close resemblance to Annie, her second daughter and seen in the play as Edward's often-despairing mother (played by Jenny Lee).

The structure, in which the generations blend together on Janet Bird's rocky set, is reminiscent of Richard Bean's recent Honeymoon Suite. It allows director, Tamara Harvey to demonstrate parallels between mother and daughter and more particularly grandfather and grandson. This can be a problem as through the three generations, themes recur with too great a similarity to be entirely meaningful.

Markings is an investigation into tortured souls and the failure of the genders to communicate, but tends to substitute anguished words for action. Dominic Francis also seems overly keen to prove his point that history repeats itself. He does build suspense well, as he drops murmurs of secrets that are only gradually revealed.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher