The Traverse descends into darkness, tiny lights, like planets dangling from above. The vastness of the solar system surrounds Robert (Owen Whitelaw) as he sits on his single bed, in his grotty little bedroom, that he hasn’t left in 12 years. Amongst the stacks of magazines and post it note scribbling, you barely notice the Christmas tree. How to Disappear is the perfect alternative to the festive season.
Since Helen Daniels in Neighbours died, he hasn’t been aware of time passing him by. Does he not want to go outside, get a job, feel entitled, and be a part of our strong and stable society?
Robert lives with his sister Isla (Kirsty Mackay), his only connection to the outside world. But almost as invisible, she gets locked in the cupboard at school and the stacking up of detention letters makes it hard to find “hings” like his Referendum postal vote. Their dad’s away to Ibiza for some Euphoric Dutch Hoose me-time and they’re struggling alone. Especially when Civil Servant Jessica (Sally Reid) comes to revoke their benefits.
Morna Pearson’s award winning pitch-black comedy is a tale of empathy and social commentary filled with political puns and references to pop culture. The latter part of the play steps into a realm of fantasy. As Becky Minto’s set revolves, we see an alternative world next door. It’s almost as if he’s struggling with reality and the thoughts inside his head. Part of him wants a job and a tidy room, the other just wants to watch Neighbours twice a day.
The social awkwardness throughout provides absolute hilarity, but all three characters are damaged and you can’t help feeling guilty. Unfortunately, it’s a reflection of the society we live in, an all too frequent occurrence. Whether he is mentally ill, or on the autism spectrum, it’s far more serious than what Jess writes down. Set in Elgin, it feels close to home, despite the sometimes questionable Highland accents. How do those who have disappeared survive? What does our strong and stable government do to help?