Jeffrey Hatcher‘s play, Scotland Road, takes its name from a lower deck corridor on the Titanic. Used only by staff, it traveled between solitudes, from third class to first. Originally, it was the name of a stage coach route beginning in a dreary Liverpool slum and ending in the fresh air of Scotland. It becomes a focus of longing in the play. “Take me to the Hebrides!” a character cries.
Billed as a psychological mystery, the play is actually about psychological shipwrecks.
Based in part on a tabloid story, in part on Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein, the play has a curious premise. A woman, claiming to be a survivor of the Titanic, is found on an iceberg (echoing the opening of Shelley’s novel where a captain finds a survivor on the ice). She is perfectly intact (due to cryonics and global warming perhaps?) At first, she is mute, but eventually she has a story to tell.
The first half of the play centres on this muteness. The main character, John, a seemingly privileged investigator played by Jared Lenover, hammers against the silent survivor with layers and layers of icy words. An iceberg of cruelty. He’s driven by some personal vendetta and has created a creepy interrogation room inside an abandoned gas station. Each character, it turns out, has a secret and is masquerading as something else.
He and a so–called doctor, Halbrech, played by Julie Gross, spar for power over the patient‘s care, interrupted only by the silence and beauty of the survivor played by Sanja Savic and the presence of two mute assistants.
The play freezes into a pattern with John starting each interrogation grandly and leaving the stage with a determined march, using the same body language again and again. The survivor enters and exits through the back door, again and again.
The set is nothingness, the blankness on which we draw a picture of our lives or allow someone else to draw it for us. There is a Titanic–style deck chair in the centre of the stage, a poignant reminder of the beauty of craftsmanship, the privilege of a seat with a view.
Indeed, a portal, away from personal obsession, is the saving grace of this play.
The cast work hard in this production and they manage quite well with the cryptic script. Although needing fuller ownership of his lines, Lenover conveys John’s mania. Gross, as the doctor is a curiously stalwart presence, and Savic makes her final tale memorable. The arrival on stage of the bright–eyed Maggie Thomas, playing Frances Kittle, a Titanic survivor, is a breath of fresh air.
The music seems at odds with the tension in the play. There are references to a humming engine in the script, purposely planted to jolt the survivor‘s memory, a potential for eeriness that is lost here.
Some cues could be sharpened The slide of the iceberg at the beginning flashes by too quickly. The intermission (not normally present in the play) leaves the audience momentarily confused, as do the non–existent slides in the slide show.
Nevertheless, what director George Thomas does capture are the shards of psychic debris that may or may not be pieced together, much like the head of the disembodied doll found on the sunken ship. Stories are flashed and withdrawn. The rest, like the final hours on the Titanic, is ours to imagine. V
Oct. 25, 26, 27, Nov. 1, 2, 3 at 8pm
Presented by Dundas Little Theatre.
@ the Garstin Centre for the Arts
Market St. S., Dundas.
tix: (905) 627–5266