The play unwraps itself through a series of flashbacks that fold in on themselves, as old ghosts refuse to be shut out any longer. There's nothing new being said here, and what is said takes too long. The play actually comes across as old-fashioned in form as well as content, like a splintered late-Nineties update of Arnold Wesker's Chicken Soup with Barley, which also dealt with the timeless contradiction between family values and radical thought. Its continual bickering across the generations is reminiscent, too, of the kitchen-sink clatter of a mid-Seventies Play for Today, or even Till Death Us Do Part, with head of the family, Eric, a more benevolent Alf Garnett figure. It's actually this innate understanding of domestic strife that is the play's strongest point. Even the cheap emotional trick at the end works (just), largely because it's done without a hint of irony.
A fine central performance from Astrid Azurdia as the eldest daughter gives the play its backbone, yet for all its depth, there's simply too much on offer. McCartney, who also directs, and McLellan, who plays the mother, perhaps wear too many hats to be objective about the script's bulk. If there's any salvation on offer, and there has to be in what essentially aims to be popular drama, it's through the galvanising influence Cousin Daniel's metaphorical raising of the dead brings to each of the characters' lives. They have a future now. They have hope. It might not last, but it's something.
n Traverse Theatre, Aug 20-31, various timesReuse content