Arts Review: Fantom


Dir. Liz Carruthers, Citizens Theatre, 29 Oct-1 Nov

Fantom stars a young man named Alasdair, lost and without purpose, who ends up becoming a serial killer. Your correspondent felt suitably at home. Originally a one-man play performed by the writer, Iain Macrae, it appears at the Citizens Theatre with a cast of three native Gaelic speakers, backed by multi-instrumental live music composed and performed by the excellent Annie Grace.

The music is critical to helping the non-Gaelic speaker follow the play, as it is fully integrated into the performance: each character has their own sound, and the instruments are used as much to provide sound effects as they as for atmosphere. Body language, too, is very influential and, while the play does not specifically cater for the non-native speaker, the expressiveness of the actors means following the play is far from an ordeal. A scene-by-scene synopsis is also available on entry.

Artair Donald’s Alasdair, better known as the infamous murderer Mac an t-Srònaich from Lewis and Harris, was on the loose in the 1830s. Thrown out of his home at the outset of the play, Mac an t-Srònaich is haunted by how his father treats him, as the play explores his apparent motivations.  Encountering various unpleasant characters, all played by Macrae, we follow Mac an t-Srònaich’s various murders intertwined with scenes of him reflecting on the death of his mother.

The play is sympathetic to the killer of legend, suggesting that a lack of familial love is to blame rather than an inherent evil. We close with Mac an t-Srònaich wielding his weapon while being told by the spirit of his mother: “You’ll make more harm with a blunt blade.”

Sadly, the other half of the Gaelic double bill, Tomas, a one-man adaptation of Robert Burns’ Tam o’ Shanter, is unable to go ahead due to the one man in question falling ill.

[Ally Shaw – @radalias]

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