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Review: DECLAN, Traverse Festival Online

A reimagining of Kieran Hurley's Mouthpiece for the online Edinburgh Fringe

Review: DECLAN, Traverse Festival Online Review: DECLAN, Traverse Festival Online

The acclaimed 2018 production Mouthpiece, by Kieran Hurley, returns to the Traverse Theatre, now reimagined for the digital stage and co-commissioned by Edinburgh International Festival.

Lorn Macdonald performs in, directs and edits this involving take on Declan, the character in the original play. We hear his version of the events, see his Edinburgh through his eyes. This is no simple digital production in a single-camera shot: there is music, animation (by Nisan Yetkin), film, and more.

This is a play showcasing the Scots working-class perspective, and how that can be subverted. In Mouthpiece, the journalist Libby befriends Declan, then uses his story to create her own play, and in doing so distorts the human element of friendship and familial loyalty. As he notes at the start of Declan, he was even played by "a wee ginger twat".

From the moment we see his plan to interrupt the Q&A at the end of Mouthpiece, we know that we are going to find ourselves inside this young man's head. If you have not seen the original play, Declan may be slightly hard to settle into, but if you have the patience, this stands up in its own right. It is more a character study, a jigsaw of words and images.

Macdonald's take on the character is never less than astounding. He inhabits the tough side of Declan, his demons and frustrations, utilising the rich and ribald language of the dialect in which he speaks. In this directorial debut, Hurley's original text is taken apart and reassembled, enhanced and reassessed, to bring us into the world of this young man who was denied his voice.

As a film, this displays a number of flourishes which keep the interest: characters filmed in front of mirrors, through glass, from a range of angles, as video broadcasts. Then, the ending, which was so powerful on stage in Mouthpiece.

It is curious, in a way, to see Declan in this format. The two actors (Macdonald and Angus Taylor, both revealing different facets of the same character) and their surroundings thrive within this story of class, violence, and pure anger. "Without even seeing how you are all joined up," as the character states of his city. It is a brave piece, and one which has the courage to say - at this time of crisis in the arts - that theatre may be elitist and exclusionary to the Declans of this world.

Declan is available at the Traverse Festival Online until 3 September. Festival passes are available on a pay what you can basis.

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