It's no secret that over the last decade many British playwrights, faced with a blankly conformist society and a right-wing political consensus, have been involved in a deep flirtation with violence, as a way of cracking through the surface of things and exposing the anger beneath the skin.
But David Mark Thomsons new play, Moving Objects, at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh, is something different, a modest three-hander which, during a slightly overlong two-and-a-half hours, offers an complete picture of the impulse to violence in our society, where it comes from and, most bravely, what it destroys.
Therese is a young woman with a drink problem living at the end of her tether in some scheme on the outskirts of Edinburgh, desperate to "do something" about her ex-husband, who has been given custody of their little daughter.
Wull is the local ned who wants - for a fee - to "help" her get rid of him, offering a desperate semblance of friendship, in the hope that Thereses money will buy him a new life.
Joseph is the old Jewish pawnbroker to whom Therese tries to sell her last few family heirlooms for the cash Wull demands. When Joseph gets involved in Thereses story, offering her real friendship and a glimpse of a different world-view, Wulls sense of rejection, and his desperation not to lose the cash, brings his violent rage against society, civilisation, and the possibility of hope, menacingly to the surface.
As a portrait of how street fascism is born out of economic rejection and despair, Paul Samsons performance in this brilliantly conceived role could hardly be bettered. Molly Innes is breathtaking as Therese, a lovely woman trapped in the life of a self-hating slut; and Gareth Thomas is powerful and moving as Joseph. Most startlingly, Thomson has the nerve to offer the glimmer of a happy ending, won finally not through Josephs wise words, but through Thereses fragile surviving sense of beauty and form; and that, in new British drama at the moment, is perhaps the most radical gesture of all.
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Last updated on 27th of October 2001.