Mouthpiece at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
While theatres throughout the land are serving up seasonal fayre, the Traverse’s Christmas offering is a million miles from fairy tales and fun…which makes it all the more important at this time of the year.

For not everyone is in a position to enjoy the festivities, and while we are remembering the homeless, for instance, there are those who may have a roof over their heads but, for whatever reason, find themselves in a living hell.

The characters in Kieran Hurley’s new play are two such people. Seventeen-year-old Declan comes from an abusive home and has anger issues but finds peace up on Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crags, drawing pictures. At 46, Libby ‘used to be’ a writer but now feels obsolete and unwanted and is about to jump off the cliff – except that Declan saves her.

Featuring extraordinary performances from Lorn Macdonald and Neve McIntosh, what follows is a harrowing, alarming story of how the two connect through an awkward friendship and Libby’s desire to tell Declan’s story. It ends with his life/her play being produced at the Traverse, but as Declan says, ‘There’s never really an end, whatever happens. Stories just don’t end where you say they do'.

Directed by the Traverse’s outgoing artistic director Orla O’Loughlin, Hurley’s play hits the spot on so many levels, and includes expected injections of humour. Interestingly presented at times almost as a masterclass in playwriting by Libby, it highlights the differences between class and culture and how well-meaning actions can have explosive results.

Libby, who frequents New Town cafes and art galleries, is going through a midlife crisis and McIntosh’s emotional portrayal of her, vulnerable and a little off-the-wall, tugs at the heartstrings. But, 18 hours after I left the Traverse, my eyes still fill up when I think of Macdonald’s powerful performance, exuding so much anger, hurt and anguish. I just hope he isn’t a follower of method acting! At one point I thought he was looking at me and I felt really intimidated and afraid.

These two certainly deserved the standing ovation they received!

Mouthpiece is at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh until Dec 22
Box Office: 0131 228 1404
www.traverse.co.uk