Review: Platform 18: Beats/Thatcher’s Children, Traverse Theatre

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For an award that champions “new direction” in Scottish playwriting, choosing two pieces that hark back to the 80s and 90s as winners might seem, on the face of it, a tad incongruous.

***

The underlying themes, however, – disillusion, dissatisfaction and dysfunction – of Platform 18’s latest double bill are all too recognisable in society regardless of the decade. Employing humour and intelligence, both draw pertinent comparisons with then and now, albeit with varying degrees of success.

Energetic and enterprising, Thatcher’s Children is a spoof veneration of the Iron Lady, exploring the idea that many of today’s problems can be traced back directly to her actions. It’s full of scathing satire and amusing absurdities (like the purposeful confusion of Meryl Streep’s back catalogue with Thatcher’s own past) even if the length of some of the musical and physical aspects detract from the core message.

As well as the laughs, Gary Gardiner’s script offers some stirring, thoughtful points for consideration, although by continually joining the dots rather than letting the audience make their own connections, it veers awkwardly close to moralising instead.

Combining a coming-of-age tale with the chemical culture of the rave scene, tonight’s other show, Beats, deftly tiptoes round the cliches typical of both genres. Written and performed by Kieran Hurley, with Jamie Wardrop and Johnny Whoop providing live video and audio mixes, this darkly comic monologue tells of an evening’s illicit activities that mark both the beginning, and end, of something significant in the life of 15-year-old Johno.

Without ever leaving his seat, Hurley manages to introduce an inventive, believable and likeable cast of characters into the story, shifting the narrative perspective with often nothing other than a subtle modification of body language or expression. The only drawback is that sometimes the music drowns out parts of the prose, a shame given the quality of the writing. All it really needs is a little less volume, and (very occasionally) a little more delineation between the protagonists. A few tweaks here and there, and he could well have a cracker on his hands.

Run ends April 28