18 August 2016
Ayes for eyes
The last two Edinburgh Fringe festivals included numerous productions reflecting on Scottish and British politics before and after the independence referendum. But that poll, in September 2014, was perfectly timed for festival deadlines on either side. This year’s European Union referendum, occurring long after venues were booked and brochures printed, forced playwrights either to guess the outcome or ignore the subject.
Most dramatists seem to have taken the latter strategy. The Traverse, famed for political new writing, has a repertoire this year that largely looks beyond Scotland or immediate topicality. My Eyes Went Dark by Matthew Wilkinson is a powerful contemporary revenger’s tragedy, with Cal MacAninch intensely mesmerising as a Russian architect who is working in Nice (this reference to a place now shadowed by the Bastille Day killings feels providentially prophetic) when his family, flying to meet him, are killed in an air accident.
Convinced that he has identified the person to blame, the bereaved pursues various forms of justice. Thusitha Jayasundera plays, with tremendous versatility, all the other roles, including judges, therapists, and, crucially, two mothers. Wilkinson’s own direction is ingeniously economical, with an oblong of light becoming convincingly the grave that the architect, like someone in a Greek tragedy, uses as a bed.
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