When it comes to painting the finer details of life for a working class, Catholic, Scots family, Nobody Will Forgive Us is resolutely unforgiving. Tragedy plays out against a wasteland of beaten up snooker halls, Housing Association flats with nothing but a big telly, booze, a multipack of crisps, and filthy streets strewn with McDonalds packets and dog mess.
Yes, it’s a world away from the Royal Scots Club, the venue of choice for Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group’s production of Paul Higgins’s grimmer than grim comedy, but they have hit the nail on the ugly head. A single, fringed lampshade and a picture of a saucer-eyed baby girl sit on top of a side board that’s stocked up with nothing but fuel to feed the family’s addictions: Irn Bru, cheap booze and anti-depressants on repeat prescription. The setting is suitably austere making it ripe for such a despairing narrative of dark family secrets to unravel.
In a family dominated by an aggressive, alcoholic father and two sons set to go off the rails, it is the silently suffering mother and daughter who offer the more poignant character portraiture. Legally drugged up daughter Cath prompts unflinching questions about the fate of young, working class women in the hopeless grip of unemployment, poor health, and addiction.
Kirsty Nicholson gives an earnest and often very funny performance as the clinically depressed teenager. One of the more accomplished scenes of the production is when she attempts to talk to her dead baby sister, the saucer eyed girl in the frame; this gives a glimpse into the emotional interior of a family that rub by each day on banter and bravado. Cari Silver also gives a sharp performance as she fights off the slurs of her husband and the back answers of her sons.
Higgins doesn’t shy away from how brutal things can really be and weaves a lot of big ideas about society into a text that is already dense with family complications. In an attempt to convey all of this, the company are prone to fraught overacting. Gavin McGregor gives a gutsy performance as Johnny, but the physical demands of the role, such as the drug induced tremors and eternally nervous twitching , were junked up so high that they didn’t look genuine. Equally, the slurring of the alcoholic father occasionally went down to complete slow motion, despite moments of snarling brilliance during his atheist ranting.
Nobody Will Forgive Us is a text that blisters with relevance at this year’s Fringe and this company give a watchable performance of it, even if you do leave wringing your hands with despair.