Writer: Martin McCormick
Director: Andy Arnold
Designer: Charlotte Lane
Lighting Design: Dave Shea
Sound Design: Ross Brown
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
It’s into the insular world of the reclusive Ma and Pa that we eavesdrop in award-winning actor and playwright Martin McCormick’s Ma Pa and the Little Mouths. The play, presented as a rehearsed reading as part of last year’s Mayfesto, now returns fully-formed to The Tron.
Ma and Pa are isolated in their high rise flat. Literally blocked-off from the outside world. Pa’s weekly shopping trips the only contact with whatever’s out there. Their days spent passing the time telling each other ever-more absurd tales. Into this world falls Neil, a woman Pa finds hiding under a car in the street outside. They give her refuge, but in the act of opening that door, their lives and hers are changed inexorably.
In turn absurdist and surrealist, but always captivating, McCormick’s piece wears its influences on its sleeve, there are undoubted nods to Harold Pinter in pace and tone, and to a lesser extent to the output of Philip Ridley, though much more palatable, of wider appeal and a whole lot less in-your-face and absolutely of Eugène Iionesco, the master of portraying the insignificance of human existence. The non-linear narrative may prove challenging to some but there’s plenty of humour to delight, the language rich and the dialogue has a hypnotic rhythm of its own. The petty resentments of a long-term relationship, deftly written by McCormick, are delivered as pithy one-liners, and thrown at each other like perfectly formed weapons.
The much-loved comedy actor Karen Dunbar (Ma) is a local favourite and having already shown her acting chops playing Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days, at this very venue, the character of Ma, seems like a perfect fit. While she delivers the lion’s share of the laughs, there’s an air of barely hidden menace under the razor-sharp retorts. Dunbar is maturing into an actress of great depth. Veteran Scottish actor Gerry Mulgrew delivers a beautifully measured performance as Pa.
As the piece progresses, hints emerge as to the deeper tragedy that underlies this existence. At a compact 180 minutes, while challenging, McCormick’s work is always creative and utterly captivating.
Runs until 12 May 2018 at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow then at the Traverse, Edinburgh from 16-19 May 2018 | Image: John Johnston