Review: A Slow Air

Written for Time Out

David Harrower’s ‘A Slow Air’ takes its time but stick with it and this potent two-hander will reward your patience. 80 minutes of alternating monologues, Harrower’s newest play is a departure from the ‘less is more’ approach of previous work such as the Olivier-winning ‘Blackbird’. But his newly talkative style does nothing to dilute the power of a piece which is as strangely affecting as its title – and was critically acclaimed this year in New York and last summer at the Edinburgh Festival.

Athol lives in a bungalow in Glasgow while his estranged sister Morna is in Edinburgh, shagging a man she sardonically calls ‘Sir Galahad’ and acting like a wounded animal with everyone else. Their 14-year silence is about to be broken by Morna’s troubled teenage son, Joshua.

In the litany of betrayals that ensues, the poetry of Athol and Morna’s storytelling is so deceptively domestic that one moment you’re smiling about cleaning or golf and the next you’re swallowing back tears. I haven’t felt this moved by the complexity of normal people or their failure to connect since I read Jonathan Franzen’s ‘The Corrections’.

As director, Harrower tackles his play with quiet confidence, letting the words do most of the talking. In a compelling production, he leaves the emotional explosions that threaten to engulf each utterance bubbling beneath the words. Susan Vidler takes time to settle into Morna’s swagger but finds her stride magnificently by the end. And Lewis Howden breathes rich texture into Athol, a gentle man emotionally brought low by his own ordinariness.

Running until 2 June 2012. For more information go here.