Theatre: Cromwell's Ireland, Milosevic's Yugoslavia

THE CLEARING TRON THEATRE GLASGOW

IN REVIVING last year's successful production of Helen Edmundson's second play, premiered at the Bush in 1993 to general acclaim, Scotland's Stellar Quines company once again harnesses the capacity of its narrative, set amid Cromwell's forced eviction of Irish landowners and tenants during the 1650s, to focus our minds on the roots of current events.

Edmundson was spurred to write The Clearing by the former-Yugoslav civil war, but despite its intentional and continuing topicality, it is in many respects a highly old-fashioned play - in the most potent and sophisticated sense. It addresses its questions about what we now call "ethnic cleansing" - centrally, why and how do such atrocities overwhelm formerly peaceful co-existence - through a story-based route, and by making us care about the individuals it depicts.

The primary framework for the tale is the doomed love triangle of young Irish bride Madeleine (Veronica Leer), her English landowner husband Robert (Hugh Lee), and adoptive sister Killaine (Helen Lomax). We open on the household as a seeming idyll of happiness and hope, with the birth of the couple's first child, but whose private felicity offers scant defence against the forces of sectarian realpolitik mustering outside.

Also caught up in the gathering tragedy are Robert's yeoman-farmer neighbours, Solomon and Susanah Winter (Gareth Thomas and Janette Foggo), Maddy's childhood sweetheart turned rebel outlaw, Pierce Kinsella (Rory Casey), and Cromwellian overseer, Sir Charles Sturman, portrayed with fanatic conviction by Kern Falconer. This last performance occasionally threatens to spill into boo-hiss caricature, but at the same time searingly conveys the destructiveness of intolerant zealotry towards the oppressor as well as the oppressed. The simple, stockaded design of Jan Bee Brown's set, meanwhile, reinforces the mounting sense of siege.

Though the contemporary relevance of the action and dialogue is consistently apparent, it never overburdens the drama, thanks to Edmundsen's ability to create characters who speak and behave with authentic individuality while simultaneously embodying a more general fate or dilemma. Her writing wears this density with admirable lightness, but demands performances that do no less, a requirement impressively met by Muriel Romanes's production, most vitally in the casting of Madeleine. A heroine who is equally robust and romantic, girlish and timelessly insightful, in the wrong hands she could easily turn into a Celtic-twilit bold colleen of the most cringe-making type.

Leer, though, brings a magical buoyancy and no-nonsense groundedness to the role, together with a wonderfully artless turn of phrase that places her squarely as the drama's emotional anchor. Foggo provides strong though understated support as the simple, upright country matron forced to cope with calamity on a scale she never dreamed possible, while Lee's wide- eyed, hapless boyishness adds greatly to the impact of Robert's ultimate choice between land and love.

Touring nationally until 6 November; details, 0131-343 3146

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test