The Clearing

Found in The Scotsman by Carol McCoy

I found this in THE SCOTSMAN. Alas, no mention of Gareth.

The Clearing; The Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Review by Joyce McMillan

HELEN Edmundson describes Maddie, the heroine of her 1993 play The Clearing, as a "formidable torrent of humanity, the result of my persistent optimism that humankind can reach a better place"; how strange, then, that this big, powerful play about her should emerge as such a crushingly depressing piece of theatre. Inspired by events in former Yugoslavia, but set in Ireland in the 1650s, the play describes the slow, rending division of a society along rigid ethnic lines.

Maddie O'Hart is an Irish Catholic girl in Kildare who has fallen in love with, and married, a young English landowner, Robert Preston; but the political climate in which their love flourished is growing colder by the hour, as Cromwell's men in Ireland -led by a psychopathic anti-Irish bigot called Sturman - begin a savage campaign of ethnic cleansing and expropriation of Catholic-owned land.

Conflicting loyalties destroy the marriage; and in the end, Maddie and Robert face one another across a vast, unbridgeable gulf of ethnic hatred.

All this is magnificently captured in Muriel Romanes's strong, straightforward production, built around a thrilling performance from Veronica Leer as Maddie, and a chilling one from Kern Falconer as Sturman.

The problem, for me, lies in the way Edmundson's perspective seems to shift as the play progresses, almost mirroring the slow intellectual surrender to ethnic nationalism that has been such a horrifying feature of recent European history.

At the beginning, Edmundson is appalled by Sturman's cold, implacable sense of tribe, and sets Maddie up as a life-force against the big lie of ethnic purity; by the end, the writing seems to have slipped into "terrible beauty" mode, giving all the best lines - and a mystical "sense of peace" - to the advocates of blood-and-soil Irish nationalism. But the play comes close to portraying the politics of hatred, bigotry and blood as an unavoidable human destiny; small wonder that it left me feeling sick at heart, and the audience, though appreciative, looking pale as ghosts.

* At the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until 25 September; Dundee Rep, 28 September-2 October; and the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 8-23 October.

Back to Gareth Thomas's other roles

Back to Who's Who Index

Back to Blakes 7 Index

Last updated on 17th of October 1999.