Edinburgh Nights: A world that nobody recognises

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KILL THE OLD,

TORTURE THEIR YOUNG

TRAVERSE THEATRE

DAVID HARROWER'S first play, Knives in Hens, which premiered in 1995, was so beautifully written and structured that it instantly established the young Glaswegian as a major talent. Kill the Old, Torture Their Young shows a similarly impressive facility for sparse, understated dialogue, but it lacks the cohesion and emotional texture that made his debut so gripping.

The central character, Robert, is a successful TV documentary-maker who is returning home after 10 years, having been commissioned by a TV company to train his lens on his native terrain. But he no longer recognises the streets of his youth - almost all the faces he knew have vanished. And everyone else seems to be losing their grip.

There's the young would-be actor, Darren, who becomes increasingly desperate at the menial jobs he keeps landing and the rejection by Angela, a frustrated painter. The jet-setting, coke-head, Rock Singer, is so disorientated that his idea of getting directions is to ask first which street he's in, then which city.

The plastic TV employees, Heather and Steven, gradually realise that the documentary isn't shaping up as they had hoped, but their vision is never called for or articulated.

The pattern of people looking for points of connection and finding none produces a frustrating experience for the audience. You wait for ages to get hooked in, until at last it dawns on you that any real meaning is in the pipeline. And why it's called what it's called is anyone's guess.

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