Walking on Walls (Traverse: 18 – 22 October’16)

Image: Leslie Black

Image: Leslie Black

“Funny and searching by turns”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

You would not take Claire for a creepy clown. Have there been any sightings in Edinburgh yet? With Halloween around the corner there may well be a few popping up at the window or from behind a wall, which is where Claire comes into her own. She’s the ever so earnest social scientist who doubles as a Super Helpful Person, who just happens to wear a clown mask when she’s out at night looking after people. You could say she looks over them.

Nobody’s laughing at the sinister clown craze, least of all the police, and we shouldn’t laugh at Claire, who has just called them – again; but we do laugh at her, just as the police do, because Morna Pearson’s script makes it all too easy to. Poor Claire with her big round specs and love of chat-defying stats, who’ll never be down the pub after work. But this is the same Claire who notices that (normal) ‘people don’t board themselves up’ unless they’ve been hurt and are vulnerable.

You’ll hear a lot from Claire (Helen MacKay) as she explains herself and her wacky, neighbourly, exploits. She is admirably audible, even from behind the mask. You’ll hear less from Fraser (Andy Clark), not least because of the duct tape across his mouth, but he’s impressive at being incredulous, dumb, and helpless. Unsurprisingly he’s in WTF mode and tries to stay there until he too is affected by Claire’s story. Well, he might be affected, and that’s the point of Pearson’s stinging, interrogatory close.

It is a questioning piece, funny and searching by turns. Who’s the victim here, for one thing, and what’s their space like? Andy is literally bound in his and is pushed around by a young woman, which has to be a valuable experience for him. With Claire it is more complicated. Work is probably the featureless desk, stage left. Home seems to have shut behind her and seems inextricably part of a very unhappy time at school. She sees the empty Buckie bottles and used condoms in the street and it’s all pretty ugly.

There’s tension, of sorts. I saw and heard the opening out and folding up of Claire’s neighbourhood map – with its anti-social ‘hotspots’ – and thought, characteristically, ‘Metaphor-for-Anomie’, which is almost certainly to go too far. Walking on Walls is more interested in seeking kindness than anything else.

Walking on Walls is the third play in the Traverse’s current series of ‘A Play, a Pie, and a Pint’ from Oran Mor, Glasgow.

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Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 18 October)

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