David Benedict on theatre

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Indy Lifestyle Online
"It struck a chord in Winnipeg." It's not the commonest of responses to a play, but Ian Brown, outgoing artistic director of Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre, took his production of Sue Glover's Bondagers to Canada and it went down a storm.

The Traverse's Canadian connection runs deeper than that. After all, this is the theatre which memorably produced Canadian playwright Brad Fraser's Unidentified Remains... and Poor Super Man, both of which transferred to London. A similarly happy fate awaits Bondagers, which comes to the Donmar Warehouse next week. It has been a long journey. As Brown points out, the show began five years ago. Such has been its success that it has been revived on several occasions. The kind of commitment to a play whereby it is kept in the repertoire is genuinely rare. It's partly the financial constraints and the difficulty of reassembling casts, but everyone involved in Bondagers (including Hilary MacLean, above right) attests to the fact that it's special.

Often, within days of a production finishing, a director or an actor will achieve the necessary distance from a play to suddenly think, "Why didn't I do it like that?". The luxury of revivals means that there are endless opportunities to develop both the text and the production, which is precisely what has happened here.

The original production was given money in order that Brown could work with a movement director and a musician, a fruitful relationship which has grown each time the play has been restaged. This, together with its rural setting, is possibly why it has come to be seen as the Scottish Dancing at Lughnasa. Brown recognises that this is a nonsensical way of describing the play, but can see certain similarities: "There's a sadness about it beneath a joyful recreation of the past." In its third incarnation, Bondagers looks set to win itself another group of fans.

`Bondagers' is at the Donmar Warehouse, London WC2, from Monday

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