How can any of us know whether our lives matter? What does thirty-five years of eliminating human debris and wiping away the very evidence of life ever amount to? Dirt Under the Carpet is an intensely packed meditation in the guise of a whodunnit and is kicking off the inaugural Granite Noir festival in Aberdeen. Muriel and Lorraine are office cleaners dogged by incessant complaining from an executive who is all too willing to dob them in to their supervisor. His snide nipping has unfortunate consequences.
Rona Munro crafts nostalgia for Aberdeen’s past together with attention to contemporary concerns. So much of the piece is about separation and removal, the demarcation of space, lost time and repercussions. This makes it sound heavy but it is anything but; the comedy is pitch-perfect and the dialogue authentic. We feel for Karen Fishwick’s Lorraine’s thwarted dreams and Joyce Falconer’s Muriel’s selfless sacrifice. Lorraine has plans but is she looking her future in the face? When the women diagnose the office workers’ personalities from the contents of their desks it’s both funny and unsettling. Do we all give ourselves away so easily?
The Play, a Pie and a Pint format creates its own time constraints on the actors, but it is a shame that there is something of a sprint for the finish and the meaning of the ending is left a little unclear.
Dirt Under the Carpet is sold out this week, testament to Munro’s reputation as one of Scotland’s foremost playwrights and, perhaps, Aberdeen’s appetite for the darker side of life. As decommissioning in the North Sea creeps further up the agenda, we are all being forced to think about who and how we clean up after the oil and what that’s going to look like over the next twenty years. Muriel and Lorraine’s story, full of poignant lines, grabs you for an hour but resonates long after.