Group Portrait in a Summer Landscape

In his new work, playwright Peter Arnott takes the audience back to those pre-Brexit, pre-Covid days when Scots were on the verge of voting in the independence referendum. He focuses on a tightly knit group of family and friends on one day in 2014 as they gather together in a Highland house. The host is retiring academic George Rennie (John Michie) who has issued dinner invitations, the purpose of which is not revealed.

There is a sense that this is still a work in progress

The guests arrive and the talk is not just of the forthcoming referendum but of each other, how their relationships have changed and their predictions for the future. Arnott himself has described it as Scottish Chekhov and indeed there are many parallels in this gathering of intelligentsia and troubled family members.

Rennie’s family is haunted by the death of their son twenty years previously, so much so that the boy Will (Robbie Scott) becomes a character stalking the stage, observing the action and prompting heartbreaking memories from his mother Edie (Deirdre Davis) and father. His death has split the couple in two as they inhabit different houses and worlds.

Directed by David Greig (artistic director of the Lyceum, Edinburgh with whom this is a co-production) in the first half, the characters are illuminated individually and give a flavour of their nature. It is in the second half with the dinner that the are really let loose upon each other, the clash of egos of politicos reverberates, and a couple even turning to ridiculously grappling with each other.

There is a sense that this is still a work in progress. Initially a set of characters is presented to the audience and it is all credit to the cast that they take them and flesh them out so well. There are intimations of mortality, some humour, political context and the pain of family relationships. Ultimately though there are nine characters in search of a cohesive element to weave it all together.

Reviews by Joy Watters

Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Sunshine on Leith

★★★★
Lyceum Theatre

The Snow Queen

★★★
Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Group Portrait in a Summer Landscape

★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

Kieran Hodgson: Big In Scotland

★★★★
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The Secret Garden

★★★★
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Brief Encounter

★★★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

This intense and riveting story is set in a Perthshire country house during the Scottish Independence referendum of 2014.  It revolves around retired academic and political heavyweight, George Rennie and his fractured family and former students, coming together for a dramatic reckoning.  There are secrets to be exposed.

The play is an exploration of a way of life that is coming to its end, a family struggling to connect in the wake of political pain, grief and the beginnings and ends of great love affairs.

Expect a bold, funny and deeply thoughtful play about family and the forces that shaped the country we live in today.

*Advisory warning – this performance contains language which some may find offensive.

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