Diary of a Madman**** (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh)

Posted: August 11, 2016 in Theatre

diary of a madman

Al Smith’s new play (from Gogol) begins with two men painting  the Forth Bridge, one of them is named Matt White and he is a Chemistry graduate with an avid interest in watching paint dry. Jokes and puns flow thick and fast in the opening section, as Smith appears to be laying the foundations for a bland domestic comedy, but what follows is very much darker.

Liam Brennan gives a magnificent tragi-comic performance as Pop Sheeran, a man who dedicates his life to painting the Bridge over and over again. The geeky English lad Matt (Guy Clark) arrives from Edinburgh University to be his temporary assistant and Pop’s wife (Deborah Arnott) invites him to stay at the family home.  He catches the eye of their teenage daughter Sophie (Louise McMenemy).

When Sophie’s friend Mel (Lois Chimimba) introduces Pop to a smartphone app that traces ancestry, a demon in Pop’s head is activated and he becomes obsessed with the belief that he is descended from thanes. Sharing a favourite film ( Braveheart) with Osama.Bin Laden Scottish history and culture begins to drive him towards madness as iconic figures from William Wallace to Greyfriars Bobby appear to him. Christopher Haydon’s dynamic production demonstrates the onset of insanity vividly.

Probing deep into the heart of the Scottish psyche, the play unearths several things of which Nicola Sturgeon may not entirely approve. It is a searing commentary on nationalism in internationalism.

Performance date: 10 August 2016

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