Based on Maria Rud’s short prose on the horrors of the war in Ukraine, Revelations of Rab McVie is an ungodly amalgam of the last book of the New Testament and The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, in which we bear witness to our titular hero’s fevered descent into fiery madness.
Director Maria Pattinson thrillingly mixes projected visions of Rud’s live painting with music from the core members of The Filthy Tongues (lead by Martin Metcalf in malevolent form), as Rab recounts his lamentable story using the wiry frame of Tam Dean Burn as its agonised conduit.
This delightfully macabre three-pronged attack teases the tale slowly, allowing the songs, visions, and words of Rab McVie to swirl together as he opens each door on his journey. Metcalf, dressed in a black cassock and driving his band to sin like a demonic catechist, growls out a set of brooding songs like ‘In These Dark Places‘ and ‘Gas Mask Blues’ amid the writhing body of our protagonist.
It’s worth mentioning the remarkable physicality of Burn’s performance as he embodies McVie’s raging torment. Hissing and spitting out Rud’s script, his commitment to the character is not for the faint of heart. Contorting his body, carving his demented understanding into the stage floor, his transformation from angular everyman to a mind-blasted, broken vessel is captivating and genuinely disturbing.
Serving as an ever-changing canvas for the entire performance are Rud’s quite incredible apocalyptic backdrops, reprising the success of her ground-breaking The AniMotion Show. Smearing paint directly onto a projected surface, she uses hellish figures and vibrant colour to illustrate each point in the story, skilfully adapting her work in real time and clearing white space to illuminate Rab’s pitiful figure. “Immersive theatre” can be an overused phrase. Not here.
After a successful premiere at The Traverse earlier this year, and these two performances at the Fringe, there must be serious appetite for a longer run to spread the word of poor, damned Rab McVie even further. I advise you to avoid dark alleyways until then.