Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Although it is a full length piece, Riddance is surprisingly abrupt. SpartaKi's production, directed by Neil McKinven (who played Kenny in the original Paines Plough version of the show), is relatively straightforward, telling the story of three friends and the dark secrets they've kept from one another since childhood.
Without having read the script or seen previous productions of the play, it's difficult to tell whether the numerous (and sometimes extended) silences which precede reactions throughout the play are a part of McLean's intended presentation, or a new feature of this production. From the first moments of the production, when the stage is left empty for the full length of a pop music track, there are points during the show where reactions are delayed or characters look at one another for a few moments before responding to what's just happened. If it was the company's intention to use these silences to highlight the tensions between the characters, then perhaps they need to consider sharpening them a bit further. The line between thoughtful pause and tedious space is a thin one, and there are a few moments in the piece - though thankfully not many, after the long opening - when it is crossed.
As presented, McLean's script seems to focus more on the unfolding events than the emotional impact they have on the characters; this is part of why I was shocked when the lights went down only seconds after a major revelation, closing the show. The script leaves no time for the characters (or audience) to deal with and digest a fairly major revelation, which was frustrating - in some ways, the script feels more like act one of a longer piece.
The set, which represents the flat where Kenny (Mark Kane) lives, is beautifully designed by Graham Baird. The bronze-coloured, utilitarian formations compose the walls of Kenny's flat and are visually captivating. Sound design (by Mario Oliveira, a fellow student at Queen Margaret University College) fulfils the needs of the script but adds little to the overall feel of the production.
All three performers (Kane, plus Carolyn Calder as Clare and Paul Cunningham as Frank) are a touch too timid for the rough-and-ready childhood their characters describe. Perhaps they will loosen up over the course of the run, but at the performance I attended the violence of the final climax is not terrifying enough to recall the terrors of the childhoods the audience has, by this point, heard so much about.
And then there's what is fast becoming my usual gripe about blocking at shows in the Traverse 2 space: all too often, key moments of tension are played out between characters whose backs are turned to a large percentage of the audience. Some allowance for the position this puts audience members in would have been appreciated.
Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody