Mouthpiece

It's said that Edinburgh is a city, the size of a town, that feels like a village; or, in other words, the Scottish capital is sufficiently small and compact that you don't need all "six degrees of separation" to connect with its other inhabitants. Except, of course, Edinburgh has many "villages", social as much as geographical. Irvine Welsh's vicious Begbie, after all, is unlikely to know Muriel Spark's Miss Jean Brodie, especially in her "Prime".

O'Loughlin's direction is unflashy, enabling Neve McIntosh and Lorn Macdonald to deliver two distinct yet emotionally authentic performances.

In many respects, the two principal characters in Kieran Hurley's Mouthpiece are just as unlikely a pairing: Libby, 46, a playwright who has lost her motivation to write, who's back living with her alcoholic mother somewhere within the city's respectable Radio 4-listening suburbs; in contrast there's Declan, 17, from one of the city's impoverished housing estates. They meet on Edinburgh's Salisbury Crags, when he stops her from jumping off the edge to her death; she, in turn, is entranced by his drawings, seeing in him a creative talent with the potential to flower despite his impoverished upbringing and volatile home life.

So she seeks him out, gives him new art pencils and encourages him to draw. She takes him to see the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, a place he didn't believe was for him, which he's amazed to discover is free to enter. Inevitably, the two grow closer: and, for at least its first half, Mouthpiece takes on the feel of an odd-couple romantic comedy, the pair's gentle ribaldry (of their musical tastes and dancing abilities, to name just two) slowly but surely demolishing their defences: until sex rears its head, of course, and suddenly the romance is gone.

Hurley's Mouthpiece, the final work by the Traverse Theatre’s departing Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin, comes with a certain level of self-awareness; the narrative's context, in part, is set by Libby's frequent references to the "rules" of drama and narrative, while the two characters' final confrontation is set during a post-show Q&A following a performance of Libby’s acclaimed new play, Mouthpiece... at the Traverse Theatre. Hurley’s point is clear: imposing narrative tropes on people's lives isn't always truthful. When Libby ends her play with the brutal death of Declan’s surrogate, he sees her as dismissing him... just like everyone else.

O’Loughlin’s direction is unflashy, enabling Neve McIntosh and Lorn Macdonald to deliver two distinct yet emotionally authentic performances. Kai Fischer’s simple set successfully frames much of the action, while Kim Moore's use of sound and music supports the cast well. If the conclusion lacks a certain punch, it's arguably because Hurley can't go the whole way—after all, as an audience we’re consistently reassured by how we’re NOT sitting in an actual Q&A with the author.

Reviews by Paul Fisher Cockburn

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Since you’re here…

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Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

"Cause it’s all very well wanting to be a voice for the voiceless eh. Until you find oot the voiceless have a fucking voice and mibbe they might want tay use it." Salisbury Crags, twilight. A woman takes a step forward into the air. A teenage boy pulls her back. Two lives are changed forever. Libby whiles away her days in New Town cafes and still calls herself a writer, but she's not put pen to page for years. Declan is a talented young artist struggling with a volatile home life on the outskirts of the city. As they form an uneasy friendship, complicated by class and culture, Libby spots an opportunity to put herself back on track, and really make a difference. She needs Declan’s story, in all its messy, painful detail, but does she have the right to it? When does poverty portrayal become poverty porn?

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