IF you’re not quite ready to indulge in the festive entertainment currently encompassing the Capital, then the Traverse could well provide sanctuary from the glittery excesses of pantoland, Christmas carol concerts and the various seasonal frolics now on offer.
From this evening, there’s a second chance to see Taggart star Blythe Duff in Ciara, David Harrower’s award-winning play, telling the story of the daughter of a ruthless west coast crime boss.
Set in Glasgow, the monologue takes Duff’s titular character on an emotional journey.
Ciara’s father Mick kept her as his treasure. His hidden treasure. He wanted his only daughter shielded from what he did.
Now Mick is dead and his legacy, so bound up in the landscape of Glasgow, that infamous mean city, must be faced.
As Ciara builds her own empire with an art gallery, her world starts to shake.
Marked by the deep contradictions of her father, the art world and the city that made them all, Ciara stands on a threshold.
By facing the past, her future blows wide open. Ciara explores a world by turns, terrifying and exhilarating in what has been described as ‘an epic story for our times’.
Welcoming the piece back to the Cambridge Street theatre, where it enjoyed a successful Fringe run, Traverse artistic director Orla O’Loughlin says, “This was the jewel in the Traverse’s crown this August, and its revival will be a fitting end to a fantastic 50th anniversary year.”
Duff too is excited to be back, and reveals that the piece is one she has lived with for a very long time. Consequently, it is a role that is now close to her heart.
“I’ve been working on Ciara for about two years now,” she reflects, “because it has been with me for such a long time, getting it to the Festival in August was a real landmark - just seeing how it landed and what the audience made of it. I was delighted that they got it in so many different ways.”
The Fringe run also gave Harrower the opportunity to fine tune his script.
“David has tweaked wee bits,” confirms the actress, “but there are hardly any changes. He is just such a stickler. So while he has done some work on it, it’s just enough for clarity, and that keeps me on my toes.”
It’s not just the slight changes to the text that keep the piece fresh for Duff, who is best known to millions as Jackie Reid in Taggart, the long-running STV crime drama created by Edinburgh’s Glenn Chandler.
Ciara is a solo play; as such, it finds Duff responding to the reactions of each audience and not all audiences react in the same way.
“The audience are the other character on stage with me,” she says, adding that even the time of year can change the dynamic of the show.
“During the summer it was a wee bit warmer and everyone was buzzing about, now it’s darker earlier at night and that just makes people feel slightly different, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that reflects with the audience.
“But also, time has changed between the Festival production and now. Things happen, things change with you, so when you come back to a character, all that affects what you do.”
Another reason for bringing the show back could be that very few locals actually saw Ciara during its three-week Fringe run.
“Funnily enough, in this incredible world where technology can tell you where everybody comes from, it was very clear from the postcodes of those attending Ciara during the Festival that most were not from Edinburgh.
“They were all from further afield. So there is a full Edinburgh audience out there who I am appealing to; if you want to come to a good night in the theatre, then do come along.
“What is nice about Ciara is that it is a piece with a lot of cross-over. It seems to be a very strong piece for women. Women get it in a totally different way to men. And men get it from the perspective of being set in a male world.”
Set against the backdrop of Glasgow’s gangland, the play is quite brutal in parts. It pulls no punches, agrees Duff.
“Before it started I didn’t know whether or not it might just be a bit raw for certain ears. It doesn’t seem to be actually... and I don’t know whether I’m disappointed or happy about that,” she laughs.
“I’d said to a few older people I know, ‘It’s quite raw... it has it’s moments...’ And they went, ‘Great, can’t wait!’
“They came to see it and said, ‘We totally understand, there was a need for that. It’s only when it is gratuitous that we can’t cope’.”
For Duff herself, having been associated with Ciara for so long, there is now, she says, a physical need to play the role.
“You know me, I tend to do things for a long time. I like the explorative feel of these kind of pieces.
“I think of something like Good With People, which I did the year before. That took three years in various guises with various casts before it ended up in New York in the spring, but that only enhanced it.
“You realise that whenever a new cast member comes in, they bring something different to the party. The audience then react in a different way, which makes you react differently.
“So I’m not one of those actors who thinks doing a show night after night is just the same old, same old.
“The audience come to it afresh every day; they see it and then you react to them.
“I love this piece. I need to keep doing it. It’s not as if I have any choice. There is so much more to mine, so I’ve got to keep getting it out there, otherwise it just floats off somewhere.”
Come under Ciara’s spell yourself, at the Traverse for the next three weeks.
Ciara, Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street, tonight-21 December, 7,30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £15.50-£17.50, 0131-228 1404