Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh – until 7 May 2016
Taut, hilarious and shocking, Right Now – at Edinburgh’s Traverse following its run at London’s Bush Theatre – plays with farce and comedy before finding a dark corner of the psyche in which to settle.
There’s the ring of an authentic modern classic to Quebecois writer Catherine-Anne Toupin’s script, translated by Chris Campbell and brought to the stage with magnificent authority by director Michael Boyd. Mercurial and demanding this is packed with the kind of vicious dialogue and wit that makes the likes of Edward Albee such thrilling writers.
Young couple Alice (Lindsey Campbell) and Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) live a fractured life in their tastefully decorated flat. She stays at home, he does 12 hour shifts as a junior doctor in the local hospital. Their paths rarely cross nowadays.
She is fragile, trying to ignore the crying of an infant coming down the corridor, he is distracted, unable to ignore the documents he brings home from work. And yet, for all the austere beauty of their flat and the strains on their relationship, it seems to be built on something solid.
At least for a while, as Alice sits at home on her couch, haunted and alone, waiting for something to happen. It’s the knock on the door and the hallooing from off stage of Maureen Beattie as their neighbour, Juliette, that heralds the first crack in reality. From that very first shout and her brilliantly constructed arrival on the stage, Beattie will surely be trouble.
Of all the predators to prowl the Traverse’s stage over the years, Beattie’s Juliette must be up there with the most calculated, most vicious and darkly comic of them. Sensual and audacious, she is the stuff of which young boy’s dreams and nightmares are made.
No wonder that when her son Francois arrives, he carries a nervous tic and the haunted look of someone perpetually found wanting. Dyfan Dwyfor makes him almost as scary as his mother, a monster inhabiting a calm bourgeoisie skin whose cracks are just beginning to show.
There’s an inevitability here; once Juliette inculcates even the slightest hint of an idea, it will surely become reality. Similarly, Francois’ suggestion of a get together on Ben’s night off, will come worming its way up into existence, together with smooth operator Gilles, Juliette’s husband, made hard and dangerous in Guy William’s expert hands.
an almost hideous overlap
And, as if this was not carefully enough constructed; as if Madeleine Girling’s Parisian design was not suitably elegant, Toupin’s script was not razor sharp, David Paul Jones’ sound design was not all encompassing and Boyd’s direction was not audacious enough – as if this was not already true, then the party that follows casts all that has gone before in its shade.
Already gloriously layered in its understanding and meaning, Boyd adds to the intensity by bringing concurrent scenes in separate places to the one stage, coexisting in the same space but distinct from each other.
It is an almost hideous overlap in its revelation of what is going on, but as it grows and again transmutes, the reality of events once again seems to shift. Right up until the final coup-de-theatre, carefully constructed truths are coming ringing down as well-founded assumptions are torn apart.
A truly brilliant piece of theatre which arrives at the Traverse at the end of its tour, primed and purring with a quintet of pearly performances.
Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes (no interval)
The Traverse, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 19 April – Saturday 7 May 2016
Evenings: Tue – Sat: 7.30pm
Matinees: Thu 28 April, Sat 7 May: 2.30pm
Tickets and details: http://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/766/right-now.aspx