“Art is anal produce, art is anal produce,” a comic but key line in Kieran Hurley’s new play, Mouthpiece, uttered by Declan, performed by Angus Taylor. After a critically acclaimed London run, the powerful Traverse Theatre play about class, culture and appropriation hits the Fringe with a strong casting. Shauna MacDonald, as Libby, the playwright transformed by her friendship with disenfranchised Declan, performs a complex role, not only as protagonist and some degree of rational thinking, but also as antagonist and narrator. Evocatively fierce, both Angus and Shauna shine in this work of Hurley’s.
Set in Edinburgh, Salisbury Crags mostly, and yes, the Traverse, it’s frustratingly difficult to detach and disassociate from this work of art. Declan is unemployed and suffering from anxiety, the anxiety that comes from having a violent stepfather and living in an impoverished community, where opportunity is rare. Libby is polarised by the world of the theatre, and has recently escaped London to move back in with her mum, with no view as to where to go next. The two meet on the Crags and she sees something in Declan, which is a way out for her issue, but that may not also be the same for him. With a love for drawing and art, she takes him to the galleries and encourages this talent, and decides she would like to tell his tale.
However, the boundaries of their relationship are blurred and this acts as a catalyst for Declan’s anxiety. Frank, unflinching and underpinned with the humour you would only find in Scottish theatre, Mouthpiece considers the different classes that exist in Edinburgh and explores ideas about exploitation, elitism, ownership and identity. As the two aren’t the formulaic protagonist/antagonist (one acts as narrator, whilst the other actually ventures into the audience of the Traverse with his hood up), there is much to contemplate as the curtains close on this play.
Directed by Orla O’Loughlin and written by Kieran Hurley, Mouthpiece is a wonderful offering from two of Scotland’s finest in theatre right now. With that script writing and those performances it is hardly surprising to note that the show has been a recipient of awards. Go see, whilst you still can.
Photo courtesy of Lara Cappelli.
You can see Mouthpiece at Traverse Theatre 2 until 25th August at various times. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com