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PREVIEW NEW PLAY 27 Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Fri 21 Oct–Sat 11 Nov

‘You’re such a journalist,’ says Vicky Featherstone when I ask her whether 27 is going to ruffle feathers among scientists and Christians. The play is, after all, about a crisis of faith in a convent provoked by a scientist’s request to study the nuns in his investigation of Alzheimer’s and dementia. ‘It genuinely asks the questions,’ says Featherstone,

artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland. ‘What does the struggle with faith mean, is there a God and what is the pursuit of science about? The play is not provocative to either side, but it paints the picture that neither pursuit is easy.’ 27 brings her back into the rehearsal room with Abi

Morgan, currently being celebrated as the writer of The Hour with Dominic West and the forthcoming Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep. They first worked together when Featherstone ran Paines Plough and the director is hoping to repeat the success of plays such as Tiny Dynamite and Splendour. ‘She’s incredibly open as a writer, but she also has a strong vision,’ says the director. ‘It means she produces something with context and ideas, but is open to the play being shaped by the actors in rehearsal.’ The play is inspired by a scientific study of 678 nuns by David Snowdon, which he described in Aging with Grace, an exploration of how a convent life can influence health and longevity. For Morgan, it’s a chance to explore the pressures on scientists to be business-minded and on nuns to be part of the secular world. ‘It’s a beautiful piece about aging, loneliness and faith versus science,’ says Featherstone, who visited a convent as part of her research. ‘Abi is able to write really rich characters, who all change in some way. They’re real people, so it’s exciting, dynamic and very funny as well.’ (Mark Fisher)



PREVIEW REVIVAL BLACKBIRD Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 15–Sat 19 Nov

David Harrower’s Olivier Award-winning Blackbird is among the Scottish playwright’s most acclaimed works, but six years after its Edinburgh International Festival debut it remains a controversial one. Inspired by the real life crimes of Toby Studebaker, it depicts the meeting of a middle-aged man and a young woman 15 years after they had a sexual relationship when she was 12 years old. For Pilot Theatre’s Katie Posner, who directs the

latest touring production of the play, this refrain from judgement is what makes Blackbird so affecting. ‘David writes deeply human characters,’ she says. ‘I like the way it challenges your thoughts and creates sympathy for a situation that in truth should be black and white . . . This really interests me as you are taken on a journey that has you questioning your feelings and challenges your sympathies.’

Pilot Theatre’s tour will star Emmerdale’s George Costigan (pictured) and British actress Charlie Covell, and Posner plans to use Harrower’s poetic text to its full potential: ‘My goal is to create a truthful, dynamic and explosive piece of theatre and with a cast like mine I have every faith that I will achieve that goal.’ (Yasmin Sulaiman)

110 THE LIST 20 Oct–17 Nov 2011

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PREVIEW AERIAL PLAY MIND WALKING Paisley Arts Centre, Mon 24 Oct; Platform, Glasgow, Tue 25 Oct; Macrobert, Stirling, Fri 28 Oct; Cumbernauld Theatre, Sat 29 Oct

Tanika Gupta’s new play Mind Walking is like an ‘Asian King Lear’, according to its director, John Binnie. In it, a 74-year-old Indian man, having lived in Britain for all of his adult life, reverts to his native tongue in old age. Combing a conventional format with aerial theatre, it’s currently touring the UK and will travel to India in November. Binnie explains: ‘It’s a celebration of an older love affair. I don’t see many plays like this that really put maturity at centre stage. And when you combine that with this amazing aerial trapeze we have, you really get a sense of vulnerability, of a mind starting to unravel.’

Binnie, an award-winner for Breakfast at Audrey’s, and co-producers BandBazi specialise in aerial theatre. But while this innovative approach has wowed audiences, the show has also moved them to tears. ‘Death is part of life,’ Binnie says, ‘so everyone can relate to the lead character. He’s been so strong and suddenly he becomes vulnerable. Regardless of what language you speak or your cultural background, there’s a humanity to the piece that’s universally moving.’ (Yasmin Sulaiman)

PREVIEW NEW PLAY KIN Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 10–Sat 12 Nov

In a project started in 2010 as a collaboration between the CCA and NHS in Glasgow ‘listening posts’ were placed in doctors’ waiting rooms, which played soundbites of conversations between parents and their older children. The snippets are taken from writer Donna Rutherford’s latest piece, KIN, which examines the change in family dynamics as children reach middle age. The hope was that the posts would prompt listeners to spark up conversations on topics, which had previously been ignored. ‘It’s looking at the unspoken and the unsaid, or the small things that are difficult to broach,’ says Rutherford. Transferred to the stage, six actors, including Alison

Peebles and members of theatre companies Quarantine, Reckless Sleep and Forced Entertainment, chat intimately with the audience about their family dynamics, with video clips interspersed depicting each of them spending time with their parents. Uncompromising and moving, but often drily funny, the play touches on themes of guilt, patience, acceptance and saying goodbye. ‘The irony is that this project hasn’t made me an expert,’ says Rutherford. ‘But it shows that time moves on and, inevitably, things change.’ (Kirstyn Smith)