Published: 30/10/2014 17:14 - Updated: 30/10/2014 17:29

Review: Never Land

Peanut (Fiona MacNeil) and The Man (Benny Young) meet in Morna Young's 'Never Land'. Photo: Alison White.
Peanut (Fiona MacNeil) and The Man (Benny Young) meet in Morna Young's 'Never Land'. Photo: Alison White.

Never Land

The OneTouch Theatre

Eden Court

THE latest drama production from Eden Court shows a commendable dedication to north talent.

Written by Moray playwright Morna Young, taking a step up to the more professional stage after her contributions to the Play Pieces lunchtime theatre series, it also harnesses young local actors from the north of Scotland, overseen by a more experienced hand in Jimmy Yuill, whose career has taken him from his home town of Golspie to the Royal Shakespeare Company, television and Hollywood, and now back again.

Even the one acting role played by a veteran — Benny Young’s enigmatic "Man" — was initially earmarked for a Highlander with Inverness-born Jimmy Chisholm initially pencilled in for the part.

Unlike the Inverness theatre’s last major in-house production, Para Handy, Young’s script makes little concession to its Highland origins and firmly rejects the notion that any drama from the north should have a touch or the tartan and the twee.

Its subject matter of suicide — Young’s grim and treeless Never Land is all in the mind of protagonist Peanut as she lies in a coma — and even the threat of rape show a toughness and uncompromising side to Young’s writing that is also reflected in the play’s climax.

Because the other characters, presumably, exist only in Peanut/Patricia’s imagination as aspects of her personality, they come across more as types rather than fully rounded individuals, from the menacing Sly (Ewan Petrie) and the free-spirited Tink (Rebecca Wilkie as a more sinister adult counterpart of J.M. Barrie’s Tinkerbell) to the childlike Toots, played with a hyperactive Tiggerish energy by Inverness’s Chris Beaton in a fluffy onesie.

This puts most of the weight of the play on the shoulders of its two main players, Fiona MacNeil as Peanut, and Benny Young.

MacNeil does well in the part, but in her first professional role the Vatersay actress’s inexperience shows, leaving the veteran Young to become the dominant stage presence, unbalancing the play.

Not entirely successful, the script verges towards the overwritten, but it is still an effort worth applauding and shows much potential for the future.

It will be interesting to see what Young does with Lost at Sea, another play in development with Eden Court and one more grounded in her personal experience and community, when it takes to the stage next year.

Never Land’s Highland tour continues with shows at Achmore Village Hall, Friday 31st; Aros Centre, Skye, Saturday 1st November; and the Macphail Centre, Ullapool, Tuesday 4th November.

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