Most of us who are regular theatre goers in Edinburgh are familiar with the two auditoria that make the Traverse theatre spaces – Traverse 1 and 2. Each in its own way has its hugger mugger charm allowing a particular closeness with fellow audience members with armrests in more traditional spaces preventing such proximity. Those days have gone for now, so it’s welcome to the new addition to the Traverse stable – Traverse 3.
There may be no budging along rows to squeeze in that latecomer, but the new digital platform Traverse 3 allows the theatre to go out to the world as well as bringing the world to the Traverse in these troubling times.
Showing in Traverse 3, as part of the 2020 Traverse Festival online and the Edinburgh International Festival’s 2020 programme, is the 30 minute film entitled Declan. In a mix of filmed live action and inspired animation from Traverse newcomer Nisan Yetkin, providing characters who can’t appear physically, we have a truly punch in the gut piece of self-referential theatre.
Using excerpts from Kieran Hurley’s original play Mouthpiece, the film features a stunning performance from Lorn Macdonald, who played the role in the original 2018 production and who makes his Traverse directorial debut with Declan, along with an equally strong performance from the interchangeable Angus Taylor, who understandably won The Stage Award for his performance as Declan in the 2019 Traverse Festival stage production of Mouthpiece. The two actors give nae messin, in yer face (literally!) performances, with MacDonald impressing in a dialogue with himself as his mother.
Declan Swan is a young man living with his wee sister Sian and mother in her boyfriend Gary’s place in one of Edinburgh’s high rises. It’s not a happy home. It bristles with overt resentment from said Gary at the 17 year old Declan not pulling his weight. Declan escapes to Arthur’s Seat where he draws art and breath. On one of his trips he meets Libby, a woman who seems to be about to jump, and Declan stops her. Turns out she is, or was, a writer. She and Declan make a bit of a connection, as she introduces him to the likes of the Scottish GOMA where Martin Creed’s famous neon artwork Everything’s Going To Be Alright gets in to Declan’s psyche.
In fact she is calculatedly leeching off Declan’s life stories to supposedly give a ‘voice to the voiceless’ in her play Mouthpiece. Her choice of name can be no accident – Libby the liberal and writer of poverty porn. We are reminded through the elision between Declan and the guy playing him on stage, and the inclusion of a pause in editing software on screen, that we are watching an inventive piece of work. And work needs to be paid – the injustice of which dawns on Declan and spurs action.
Electronic sounds from composer Kim Moore adds to the tension that builds as Declan decides to venture in to the alien territory that is the Traverse theatre up the toon where he bears witness to his betrayal in Traverse1.
While there are no direct credits for the filming, that includes panoramic views of Edinburgh (surely not all down to drones), the names against the role of Camera Assistant, Matthew Bunting, Hamish Gibson, Connor Johnston and David Bowtle-McMillan, who also provides sound mixing, deserve a mention.
Declan is a raw, shocking, arresting, provocative piece of film theatre that thoroughly deserves its worldwide audience.
Contains frequent strong language and descriptions of violence.
Age recommend 16+
Running time 33mins