Published in The Times, Thursday September 10 2015
All My Sons: Two Stars
My Name Is . . . Three Stars
Rapture Theatre has not had its problems to seek in reviving Arthur Miller’s first major success for a Scottish tour. First, Paul Shelley, the lead actor, was forced to withdraw from the production due to illness. Then, on opening night, female lead Trudie Goodwin fainted midway through the second act, bravely soldiering on following a temporary halt in proceedings.
Up to and beyond that moment, Goodwin’s Kate had been the strongest presence in the play, capturing the ambiguities of a woman clinging to the delusion that her eldest son might have survived the war, while at the same time despairing at the knowledge that her husband, Joe, got rich off the back of selling faulty parts to the air force. Where Goodwin commanded the attention throughout, David Tarkenter, playing Joe, seemed at first a peripheral figure, only coming into his own in his second-act defence of his actions to the couple’s son, Chris (played by Robbie Jack, who managed to make his character’s idealism appear instinctive rather than sanctimonious).
Though Michael Emans’s production contained a couple of of tense set pieces, notably towards the end, the action was dispiritingly static, with little impression created of the wider community beyond the Kellers’ yard (rendered via Neil Murray’s rather austere set design). In snatches the production was a reminder of the telling dialogue that underpins the drama, but this powerful (and germane) play requires far greater urgency and variety.
My Name Is . . ., created and staged by the Tamasha theatre company, is also touring following a recent run at the Fringe. The verbatim drama, scripted by Sudha Bhuchar, is a fictionalised version of the real-life case of Misbah Rana (also known as Molly Campbell), the Scottish-born girl of Scottish-Pakistani heritage at the centre of an alleged “abduction” in 2006.
Rather than focus on the familiar elements of the story, Bhuchar’s play traces its origins to the first meeting in Glasgow between two teenagers, Farhan (Umar Ahmed) and Suzy (Karen Bartke), who fall in love and make each other happy for a time before the pressures and compromises of their marriage drive them apart. Balance is provided here in the form of Ghazala/Gaby (Rehanna MacDonald), torn between her parents and two rival cultures.
Philip Osment’s production is not without its problems. The drama is at times inhibited by Bhuchar’s documentary-style writing, which relies on exposition rather than letting the characters’ lives unfold before our eyes. The sensitive handling of the material does prove compelling, however, with all three performers bringing depth and nuance to a well-documented story.