Theatre Uncut is a shoe-string operation aiming to provide immediate dramatic response to current crises. Last year it was government cuts, this year it has gone global with the world economic crash and protest movements. There are twelve plays on offer, four each week, from writers as far afield as Syria and Iceland.
The four that were given rehearsed readings in the Traverse bar this week were by Neil LaBute, Lena Kitsopoulou, Anders Lustgarten and Kieran Hurley; this is very much a writer-led project. The most recent, Hurley’s, springs out of the Olympic row over the mix-up of North and South Korean flags less than two weeks ago; it’s that fresh.
As you might expect from this provenance, the results are variable. LaBute’s is a two-hander for a father and son, where the son is scrounging money from his ‘asshole’ father to go to an Occupy demonstration. It is a cynical dialogue, in which reactionary Dad has all the best lines, and there is more than a suggestion that so-called radical students are so wedded to their own comfort that they will only pitch camp if Daddy is prepared to bring them sandwiches, pay for the trip, and lend them the car to get there. The conflict is resolved with a kind of ironic sentimentality: Kid gets Dad’s Mercedes because Dad really loves him, and Dad reminds him to be home for the weekend because cousins are visiting. It’s a curiously old-fashioned little piece that might have been written by Arthur Miller.
The weakest of the four, Lustgarten’s The Break Out, is another dialogue about revolt and conservatism, this time presented in a prison where the wall suddenly opens offering a prospect of escape. One prisoner wants to escape, the other fears losing the comfort and security of the prison. The symbolism is heavy-handed, the characters little more than cyphers.
Kitsopolou’s The Price is set in a Greek supermarket where a childless couple are tempted to buy a baby off the shelf, except they won’t be able to eat if they do that. If they get a disabled one on special offer, they can get some food. If they buy a dead Pakistani one, Dad can have his macho dreams of paternity fulfilled and afford his Roquefort cheese as well. It is a pitch-black comedy about people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing, as society wishes them to. Totally arresting.
Hurley’s hysterically funny London 2012: Glasgow is a cross between The Thick of It (in its elevation of swearing to art) and the recent BBC2’s Twenty Twelve (in its management-speak that masks chaotic incompetence). Everything is about marketing – bunting is more important than national flags. It’s all about inclusion, but inclusion as colonisation, or colon-isation (see title): ‘They are part of Us. We are telling them, You are London.’ Of course, when things go tits-up, Glasgow is cut adrift and it’s all the fault of the incompetent Scots.
This is an important and timely project, thoroughly meriting support. Whatever next week’s plays are, they are likely to be sparky and thought-provoking.