The Nest, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Climb every mountain

If there were a competition among playwrights to create the most isolated, barren location in which to dump one's characters, Alan Wilkins's storm-bound bothy deep in the heart of the Highlands, with no running water, no furniture and no way in or out except through the trap door in the middle of the floor, could beat off the competition with the flick of a Gore-Tex-covered finger.

In this dark walkers' hut recreated downstairs in the aptly stifling atmosphere of Traverse 2, the hatch in the steeply sloped floor is a wonderful device, not only ensuring a sense of claustrophobia but also making every entrance and exit in this often witty first play a brilliantly laborious affair.

First through the hatch is Helen (Candida Benson), desperately and bitterly maintaining an iced-over heart beneath her shivering exterior toward her cheating husband, Colin (Matthew Pidgeon). Her carefully nursed, vengeful obsession is reflected in their five-year attempt to climb all the Munros (mountains in Scotland higher than 3,000ft). There is a rather overdrawn tension to these first few minutes, amplified as the two are joined by "Honest" Mac (Lewis Howden), a bodyguard on a continuous walk of the Munros (all 284 of them), who has just plucked a countryside-virgin photographer, Jackie (Clare Yuille), from certain death out on the hillside. Wilkins racks up some suspense with a fifth rucksack, whose contents are disgorged with all the gleeful makings of a horror movie.

But for all the Munro-talk of how many and how often, and for all the implications of the closed-in bothy, Wilkins is here concerned with a wider scope of human relationships - the ones you carry about with you, the ones that died long ago but still maintain an outward semblance of unity, and the flicker of the new, with all its potential for conflict subtly drawn under a gloss of humour. Wilkins has a great feel for one-liners, and there are fine touches in Lorne Campbell's assured direction. But despite original moments and rigorous characterisation, Wilkins's ambitious, tightly drawn play fails to convince a little too often on the basic level of human interaction.

It's partly to do with some loose plotlines - the ostensibly storm-bound inhabitants of the bothy look rather ridiculous as they talk of the awfulness of being stuck in the bothy when one of them pops down the shops. Wilkins seems to ignore the human veneer of politesse between strangers, which one feels would undoubtedly, at least at first, reign in this enclosed space, and his characters launch immediately into subsequently unconvincing judgemental attacks on one another.

It's unfortunate, because he has created a fascinating character in Helen, and some great set pieces. Whereas Colin's adultery is rewarded with a series of romantic, emotive speeches in which he has achieved contrition, Helen, who dares to try to make him feel her hurt, is vilified.

Tempting though it must have been, Benson doesn't try to make her character sympathetic. She plays Helen as an abrasive moralist, but skilfully gives us the occasional glimpse of a kinder-hearted, tender soul beneath - and of a play with more layers.

To 2 May (0131-228 1404)

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
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.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine