Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us ***


Traverse Theatre Company/National Theatre of Scotland Debuts, Edinburgh
Thursday 20th November – Saturday 29th November 2008

The last play in the National Theatre of Scotland’s Debuts season is written by, actor turned writer, Paul Higgins and directed by John Tiffany, associate director for new work at the NTS. Nobody Will Ever Forgive Us is, fundamentally, a domestic drama about a Catholic family dealing with their lives in a rundown part of Glasgow. Yet, this domestic drama soon turns into a religious and moral debate, as the character’s begin to question their own faith, the afterlife and what replaces religion when your faith is gone.

When the audience are shown into Traverse 1 we are immediately transferred into a Glasgow council flat living room, complete with 1950s wallpaper and Catholic pictures and statues – effectively designed by Naomi Wilkinson. Johnny, played erratically by Ryan Fletcher, is already in the flat frantically searching for something and is then interrupted by the early return of his brother Patrick, played by John Wark. We learn that Patrick has been away studying at a seminary and has returned early due to his loss of faith, unknown to his family. The first half of this production involves a lot of dark humour, as we are introduced to inner workings of this dysfunctional family. Slightly stereotypically, the family includes; a drunken father, who is failing to provided enough for his family, a mother, whose life has been ruined by her husband but is determined for her children not repeat her mistakes, Johnny, the son who could have been a great footballer if it wasn’t for his injuries, Cath, who seems to be living a mundane existence and Patrick, the golden boy who can do no wrong in his mother’s eyes. The comic mood, the play begins with, is only interrupted with the mention of Ruth, the absent sixth character, the daughter that tragically died of an asthma attack. The drastic change of mood is continued when the drunken endless ramblings of the father, played by Gary Lewis, became less amusing and more heartbreaking. He shamelessly bullied his wife (Susan Vidler), whose duty bound her to stay and whose children are afraid to stand up for her. It becomes apparent that this scene was a usual occurrence in their household.

Higgins’ play then goes on to explore the power of faith and the result of absence of faith. Wark’s character, Patrick, challenges his family to think about their faith and Higgins cleverly leaves his audience with no satisfaction or outcome. In essence, this play is very traditionally written, as Higgins sticks to classic five-scene structure similar to ancient Greek and Shakespearean five-act structure. He begins by introducing the character, introducing the main problem concerning paying illegal debts owed by Johnny, the resulting climax followed by the outcome of their actions – broken up peculiarly by surreal music.

The NTS’s Debut season at the Travers Theatre has gained a lot of interest and has continued the NTS’s aim to bring more new Scottish work to Scottish theatres. In this production Higgins has proven to be an interesting writer and the hope is that he will continue to write in future. Through this production, John Tiffany has also shown continued success in directing and developing new scripts. There were some moments of terrific performances from the cast of five, but at times, there was the tendency to be over dramatic. Consequently Higgins’ play occasionally felt more like a domestic drama and less like a play which questioned the existence many people find themselves in.



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