Edinburgh Festival '98: Theatre - Naked concealment

A FAMILY OUTING ASSEMBLY ROOMS
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The Independent Culture
"YOU COULD say this was a Post-Modern item of clothing," Ursula Martinez says, touting a T-shirt on which is printed an image of herself, her father and mother, all absolutely starkers. "You're clothing yourself in nakedness." You could also say that A Family Outing is a Post-Modern item of theatre. Like some philosophical riddle, it generates layers of concealment through acts of seemingly intimate disclosure.

Every night, Martinez plonks mum (62-year-old Mila) and Dad (75-year- old Arthur) onto a sofa next to her for a spot of "aversion therapy" (her particular aversion being lifelong embarrassment at their behaviour). And to "reveal family relationships as they really are". There they sit, like bemused chat show guests, while she attempts with supreme nonchalance to extract some home truths, utilising cutely customised pop cultural formats such as Mr and Mrs and Stars in their Eyes.

They open up, divulging the trivial and the telling detail: Arthur had no idea that Mila drank goats' milk; they married, he insists, because "we were both at a loose end". But a few references to a script are sufficient to warn the audience off taking every aside or bout of bickering at face value.

By the time Arthur has produced his text to find out what his response to his daughter's lesbianism should be, the point has been made that most families wouldn't share their true feelings about each other even under torture. You have to admire Martinez's inspired theatrical conceit - directed by Mark Whitelaw, who is probably a genius - but the chances are, you'll be too busy wondering at the chutzpah of the old timers, which only just stops short of stripping completely.

Until 5 Sep. Tickets pounds 8 (0131-226 2428)

Dominic Cavendish

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