Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Xana Marwick’s Nests is a compelling play, with an appealing dream-like quality. It’s unusual: the gritty subject matter ought perhaps to clash with the whimsical storytelling, but – somehow – it really works.

We’re in a clearing in a forest, home to ‘the father’ (David MacKay), an alcoholic eking an existence by selling everything he owns. There’s not much left: a run-down caravan, a broken drum kit, a guitar and a few pots and pans. But he can scrape together funds for his cheap cider habit, and he’s harming no one but himself.

But even this miserable dwelling is appealing to ‘the boy’ (Ashleigh More), a lost and forgotten child in need of sustenance and care. Outcasts, invisible, united by their vulnerability, the pair forge an unlikely partnership, each fulfilling for the other the role of missing parent/child.

It’s beautifully told, at once visceral and ethereal. It’s tragic, yes, but it’s funny too, and the characters are bold and true. Mackay imbues the father with a strange fragility, despite his coarse language and quick temper, and Ashleigh More is equally affecting: the boy’s swagger and bravado undercut with deep sorrow, his love of crows particularly resonant.

I especially like the cartoon crows (animated by Kate Charter and Claire Lamond). They add to the sense of unreality, flitting from screen to screen and interacting with the boy; there’s a real playfulness here, and it’s extremely engaging.

This production, by Frozen Charlotte and Stadium Rock, is a real gem, and I’m genuinely moved by it.

4.4 stars

Susan Singfield


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