Nicola McCartney, Haresh Sharma, Selma Dimitrijevic, and Linda McLean
7:84 Theatre Company
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, and touring
7:84's first production since the loss of their Scottish Arts Council funding (and subsequent appeal, which has given the company funding for one additional year) is a selection of four short meditations on themes of separation, linked by video footage asking questions about the upcoming question of whether Scotland should still be a part of Great Britain.
The strongest of the four pieces is, without a doubt, Haresh Sharma's Eclipse - the story of three (or possibly four, it was difficult to tell) generations of a family transplanted from Pakistan to India to Japan to Singapore. Breathtaking delivery by Umar Ahmed brought the male head of each generation of a family alive. This one-man show was deeply rooted in a sense of time and place, and Sharma brought even audience members with little knowledge of partition in India and Pakistan into the events with carefully layered exposition. Ahmed, in turn, infused his performance with heartbreaking humanity, making Eclipse the highlight of the evening's entertainment.
One decision the company made was to cast actors of varied ages and nationalities, in an effort to present Scotland's own diverse heritage. This worked well in the final play, Linda McLean's One Last Drink, which focused on family and relationships rather than specific historic conflicts or locations. McLean's examination of universal themes was clear and strong, and the broken marriage - and lingering desire to communicate - between the characters played by Billy Riddoch and Jacqui Chan was easy and enjoyable to watch.
Nicola McCartney's Wound was a convoluted story - about what, exactly, it is unclear. A family whose daughter abuses her adoptive mother, exposed before an ambulance worker whose presence seems to be to give each character a chance to exposit without 'giving exposition.' According to the programme, McCartney's story is inspired by events in Ireland in 1921, but this was anything but evident in the staging. In fact, given that we live in a world where celebrities Angelina Jolie and Madonna travel the world scooping up babies from poverty-stricken nations, it was far too difficult to place exactly when and where the story was happening. Usually I wouldn't complain about ambiguity, but in the case of Wounds, this kept my brain pumping away at where the events were taking place, distracting from being able to take any message away from McCartney's script.
The third play, A Time to Go by Selma Dimitrijevic, was about a father and son and a wedding. Unfortunately, the fragmented way in which the story was presented was a little too fragmented for me, and I would be hard pressed to say much else about it.
Re:Union is a stronger and more engaging evening at the theatre than, say, Freefall (7:84's previous offering), and there are definite strengths in this kind of thematic presentation over the course of an evening's entertainment. The short format suits the company's political overtones well, as it allowed them to touch on different aspects of a theme without belabouring any one point for more than 20 or 30 minutes.
"Re:Union" tours to Paisley, Glasgow, Ullapool, Kingussie, Easterhouse, Musselburgh, Stirling and Birnam
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody