Traverse Theatre is the central hub of Scottish new writing. Ciara, written by David Harrower, is one of Traverse’s most talked-about shows this Fringe and I can see why. The piece is a one woman monologue delivered by Ciara (Blythe Duff), daughter of one of Glasgow’s most infamous gangsters. It beautifully depicts a broken city, meandering through Ciara’s experiences as a woman surrounded by violence, wrongdoing and lost love. It is darkly comic, moving and poetic in its descriptive power; using metaphor intertwined with brutal truth to reflect the city and people of which it speaks.
Duff’s performance is spellbinding. She is elegant, sophisticated and powerful. She emanates self-control, with her clipped tongue, perfect posture and purposeful movement. As the piece draws on the chinks in her armour begin to show. Her Greek goddess-like dress flows over her statuesque frame, she appears as one of a kind - a unique, hardened bi-product of a life enveloped by crime. Yet she is utterly mortal, multi-faceted, emotionally affected. Her experiences cut into into her like any other person and pull her apart, yet she drags together her tough exterior and doesn’t let go. This is what makes Duff’s performance so rewarding. She is entirely watchable as a woman of seemingly superhuman emotional strength, yet entirely recognisable and relatable all at once.
The set is a vast warehouse, bare and empty bar with just one chair, one worn out mattress and a candle lit in the corner. Five rectangular pillars rise out of the floor; chipped and broken, crumbling. This dilapidated warehouse is Ciara’s new business project. A relic of the past, re-envisioned as a fresh starting point with an unpredictable but exciting future.
As Traverse Theatre celebrates it’s 50th year in creation, it is clear to see that its stream of exciting new Scottish writing is by no means running thin.