Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – to 3 October 2015
Community and ritual lie at the heart of Nalina Chetty’s clever new play Kontomble, the opener to the latest A Play, A Pie and A Pint season of lunchtime theatre at the Traverse.
In a consistently well-acted production, director Guy Hollands breathes life and understanding into a script that is just a shade too well-intentioned and, for all that the happy ending feels good, falls out just a bit too pat.
Miles Yekinni is warm and understanding as the tall West African man, Ezra, fresh in from Paris and sheltering from the driving sleet of a Glasgow January day in a bus stop outside the hospital. His encounter with Keiran Gallacher’s Ray, just out of the day unit where he has been for the pills which suppress his paranoid hallucinations, is delightfully worked.
Chetty provides exactly the right amount of detail to frame their meeting, while Hollands brings them together in a way which naturally opens their characters right out. It’s this sense of two intense people, both a long way from their comfort zones but in very different ways, that grounds the whole production.
Gallacher, who trained at Edinburgh’s Performing Arts Studio Scotland, was last seen at the Traverse in The Day the Pope Emptied Croy. Here, he seems even younger, a child lost in the nightmare his own brain is contriving to send him into, but knowing somehow that drugs just are not working.
Against, between and around these two lies the presence of Ray’s guardian, his aunt Ruth. Beth Marshall brings out another near note perfect performance: calm, matter-of-fact and understanding of her teenage nephew’s demands. And all too aware that it is her responsibility to guard her sister’s son from danger.
While Ezra frames the whole piece, warning that something deeper lies in the bones of the production than its surface story, the details of his ideas are never shown. There is just the knowledge that community and ritual are missing from Ray’s life, with the rest left to Ray’s unreliable interpretation of it to Ruth.
Which, for this lack of detail, makes the whole piece that bit more profound, with the simply acknowledgement that there are times when the symptoms exhibited by an individual of not of their own sickness, but a manifestation of a sickness in the society around them.
All told, for all its slick ending, a very tasty appetiser for the coming weeks of lunchtime theatre.
Running time 45 minutes, no interval.
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 29 September – Saturday 3 October 2015
Daily, 1pm. Evening perf Fri 2, 7pm.
Details and tickets: www.traverse.co.uk/