Athol and Morna, brother and sister, haven’t spoken in fourteen years. Morna’s son, Joshua (Josh to his Uncle Athol) tries to change that. ‘A Slow Air’ is much, much more than its narrative premise, and the uncomfortable, gnawing reality of what we leave unsaid, can’t bring ourselves to say and all too often won’t admit needs saying, form the warp and weft of David Harrower’s play.
‘A Slow Air’ geographically navigates the M8 Corridor but seeks to take in a bigger picture, taking in its confident stride Scotland’s ambivalent responses to the modernist project where, as Marx (Karl, not Groucho) reminds us, ‘everything that is solid melts into air’.
If we are still a nation united and separated by three languages, three indigenous varieties of Christian faith and almost as many ethnicities as the United Nations, our diversity nonetheless continues to both compound and confuse our senses of both self and nationality. Harrower’s graceful drama gazes at the reality of our shrinking sense of community, dwindling down to tribes of two or three gathered together, bound only by the school-run, the park and ride and the supermarket shop and contemplates the contradictions of being Scottish in a modern world through Athol and Morna’s relationship or rather lack of one.
The script reflects on their past which also encompasses something of our own. ‘A Slow Air’ moves surefootedly through its selected territory, alternating scenes of Morna’s life as a cleaner with up-market clients and a harem-scarem lifestyle, with those of Athol’s – settled, suburban, and successful in his contract tiling business. Happy enough with their lives despite not communicating for fourteen years, Morna’s son Joshua provides the catalyst for change by turning up on his Uncle Athol’s doorstep.
Too shrewd a playwright to miss this obvious opportunity for his characters to reassess both themselves and by implication where they are – which is not merely at opposite ends of the great Scottish East-West divide - Harrower’s shifting scenes lets us glimpse the contradictions of material wealth, social status, prejudice and pride that make up our confused and confusing sense of self and nationhood.
Lewis and Kathryn Howden give performances which are intelligently thought through and maintain the integrity of these throughout. The other aspects of the production support them magnificently, and the overall achievement makes for some of the most thought-provoking time you could spend in a theatre this Fringe.
Show times: August 4-20
Times - varies - see programme for details
Ticket prices: £6-£17