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Theatre Review: Mouthpiece ****

Michael Cox reviews 'a rich production of a deep play'.

On the surface, Kieran Hurley’s Mouthpiece should not work. Set in Edinburgh, the play is a two-hander: Libby is a struggling middle-class writer who sees potential in Declan, a working-class teenager with an undiscovered talent for drawing. The two form a friendship that artistically inspires both of them to go into new territories…before things become complicated.

What could have easily been a ‘saviour’ play quickly (and thankfully) becomes something else, something much richer and edgier. Hurley’s characters are compelling, and the play is written in poetic undertones that ring truthful for both characters.

Mouthpiece marks the departure of the Traverse’s artistic director Orla O’Loughlin, and it’s a terrific note for her to leave on. Her production in the smaller Traverse Two space feels grander than most recent shows in Traverse One yet maintains an intimate atmosphere. Together with her design team, O’Loughlin’s production is moving and tense, frequently funny and full of poignant moments.

Much of the production’s success is down to the cast. Neve McIntosh (Libby) and Lorn Macdonald (Declan) are terrific: individually and as a pair. McIntosh has the more difficult role of being the ‘straight’ character—the one Traverse audiences will probably find more in common with—yet still manages to find moments to surprise. Macdonald’s Declan, however, is a theatrical tour-de-force, a compelling character who is mesmerising and surprising in equal measures. Together, they are thrilling to watch without once giving a whiff of the obvious.

Mouthpiece is a rich production of a deep play, one that lingers far past the curtain call. It asks pertinent questions and has the nerve to not give full answers.

Mouthpiece runs at the Traverse Theatre until December 22nd.

Tags: theatre

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