Within a cluttered clearing in some woods that's neither town nor countryside and so somehow feels like nowhere, an unnamed Man (David McKay) sleeps the sleep of the just-finished-a-bottle-of-gut-rot-cider. He's woken up – eventually – by the desperate exploration of his broken home by a starving 12 year old Boy (Ashleigh More), on the run from something so terrible that he can't – more likely won't – initially say what it is.
More is particularly impressive, given that this is her professional debut; yet her gender-blind casting remains distracting.
This latest co-production by Scottish children/YA theatre company Frozen Charlotte and arts organisation Stadium Rock is an excellently-performed two-hander which raises some important questions – even if it doesn't answer them – about the support our society gives to not just its children but also their parents when times get tough. Debut playwright Xana Marwick's dialogue is suitably minimalistic, at times harsh; while director Heather Fulton does a great job bringing out the meanings between the lines, including an opening scene which runs without dialogue for several minutes, effectively building the tension to when the Man first wakes.
There's a touch of the archetypal here; objects in Katy Wilson’s set are nothing more than flat cut-outs, while the Boy's "one friend" – a crow – is represented through Geraldine Heaney's video animation (continuously displayed on one of three television screens dotted around the Man's camp) and a soundscape by Matt Elliott & Dougal Marwick. Fighting against any potential flights of fancy, McKay and More keep their characters rooted in reality – physically, verbally, emotionally. More is particularly impressive, given that this is her professional debut; yet her gender-blind casting remains distracting—why didn't they just make the Boy "the Girl"?
Marwick's script is not without problems; not only does it rely slightly too much on coincidence, it never focuses as sharply as it could on its supposed central question of where the duty of care for the most vulnerable in society actually lies. Nevertheless, she imbues her characters with an at times fascinating and endearing imaginative life; and, in this production, sees her words given an effective, nuanced production of which everyone can be proud.