Review: New Works II

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The second half of New Works features the same discussion on identity, but with an extra political kick.

Image of Review: New Works II

Showing @ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh until Sat 17 Sep

Mother Maria

The second half of New Works welcomes Davey Anderson’s Scavengers and Ann Marie Di Mambro’s Mother Maria. Continuing with this theme of identity in radically different societies, Anderson’s Scavengers is a choric tale of Michael (Francois Menard-Noens), a man set to fake his own death so that his family may cash in on the insurance policy. As the narrators circle and engage with him, talking to the audience in movie direction style as the storyline plays out in Michael’s own head, there’s a weird design feature to the whole performance. Greek chorus is one of the oldest styles of western theatre, yet finds itself pits against a somewhat lazy attempt to glorify the storyline with big-screen punchiness. Director Claire Moyer’s use of minimal props and no set possibly contrasts that of the comment the piece makes on consumerism: that last-ditch attempts at forcing corporations to pay out on our death beds are the only ways to ‘earn’ money. Other than that, Anderson’s choppy plot, riddled with quick lighting changes and addresses to the play itself make it feel all a bit forced, and with some edits to production, could comment more astutely on the intensities of our stifling capitalist society.

Di Mambro’s text also features this battle against ideology, where her high-minded retelling of a real-life Russian dissident Liza Pilenko (India Crawford) follows the character’s journey from post-revolution exile to French revolutionary as her role as a nun aiding refugees and impoverished citizens. While Di Mambro’s concept is reminiscent of something a little more agitprop, owing the nature of its creation to how theatre can be a tool for education and mobilisation, Andrew McGregor’s over-direction slightly exaggerates the piece. Though the staging relies on changes between three large boxes, used for deportation, transport and furniture, the objects are thrown around a little too easily, spoiling the fluidity of the narrative. Having said that, the director’s self-penned musical score is a haunting aid to an at times distressing piece, and matched alongside the potency of Di Mambro’s politics, Mother Maria is a moving exploration of tyrannical politics, religious ideology and social responsibility.