There’s little obvious theatrical artifice on show; just four actors, in casual clothes, sitting or lying on the plain black floor of an empty stage as the audience comes in. Mariem Omari’s script, we read in the programme, is based on verbatim interviews with a diverse range of men across Scotland, which she believes confirms the increasingly held belief that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are among the leading causes of substance abuse, depression and suicide.
Given the self-imposed limitations on staging, director Umar Ahmed keeps everything moving at a good pace without ever losing focus
“Toxic. Complete carnage,” is how Scott Kyle—best known for playing Ross in the Outlander series—describes the relationships that grew up around the council-scheme-raised man to whom he gives a voice. But there’s no monopoly on abuse, as we learn. There’s Manjot Sumal’s comic book-loving asian youth, who doesn’t want to be the one who leads from the front—or even seen smiling in public—in case it attracts the attention of the red-faced bullies. There’s Adam Buksh’s Buffy The Vampire-Slayer-loving gay Muslim, and finally Mark Jeary’s Belfast born child of “The Troubles”.
Given the self-imposed limitations on staging, director Umar Ahmed keeps everything moving at a good pace without ever losing focus, no mean feat given that the script constantly jumps from one man’s story to the next, with the other cast members suddenly playing parents, neighbours and others as and when required. Despite the seriousness of the subjects and experiences being raised, there are even plenty of laughs; not least the “David Lynch aspect of Belfast” where your neighbours could quite literally turn round and kill you, or Kyle’s “character” unashamedly saying: “I stopped self-harming when I discovered heroine”.
The scariest thought, and arguably the only significant theatrical device through the entirety of One Mississippi, is the idea that the four men in front of us—abused and bullied as the “Faggot”, the “Ned”, the “Paki” and the “Fenian”—are not just opening up about their own childhood experiences, but doing so publicly. If nothing else, it’s clear that this doesn’t, for the most part, happen in real life—with all too deadly consequences.