Fionnuala Kennedy
Traverse Theatre
Traverse 3

Removed Credit: Image by Hi Jump. Design by Mihaela Bodlovic

It may not be quite the same as strolling across Edinburgh to visit the lovely Traverse, but the online festival has started strongly.

Removed was always likely to be a hit, having already enjoyed success on both sides of the Irish border, which is no mean feat. Fionnuala Kennedy brilliantly gets into the head of Conor O'Donnell’s Adam, a Northern Irish lad with more than his fair share of troubles.

As the powerful 45-minute-long solo opens, the youngster is around eight, with a three-year-old brother named Joseph, on whom he dotes. Unfortunately, their young, widowed mother is a hopeless alcoholic and, after one of many police visits, the boys are packed off to foster parents. Miraculously, they strike lucky at the first attempt, meeting rich, generous Beatrice and Bill, the kind of foster parents that anyone could get along with.

Unfortunately, although it was never explained to the boys, theirs was always an interim role. The next family along are meanness personified, eventually leaving Adam with a broken arm and leading to a series of succeeding foster families, none particularly satisfactory. To make matters worse, three years later when Joseph is given the opportunity of adoption, he jumps at it and relations between the brothers slowly disintegrate.

After yet another run-in with figures of authority, Adam finds himself in a highly institutionalised children’s home, which has such a bad reputation that it becomes a home from home for the police.

Even so, with the support of the prematurely mature Rose, rather than the dozens of social workers who care to varying degrees but never enough, Adam eventually makes it through to the age of 18, when he has to face up to the shock of freedom and independence.

In many ways, this is the most instructive element of Removed, since the horrors of unpleasant foster parents, unhelpful social workers and homes where drugs and arrests are commonplace fit into an expected framework.

Somehow, news stories and fictional representations only rarely address the life thereafter for those who have grown up in institutions. As a result, viewers will be engrossed by this section that concludes of a strong, well-acted piece which benefits not only from clever direction by Emma Jordan but also subtly placed, atmospheric videos created by Conan McIvor.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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