It’s not often that two grown men try to Top Trump each other over who had the most religious upbringing. But these men,dressed in sombre Victorian garb, are award-winning performer Rob Drummond and Magnetic North’s Nicholas Bone.
Both are atheist, in spite of having clergymen for fathers. Bone’s father introduced him to a book by Victorian author Edmund Gosse, Father & Son, focusing on Gosse’s struggle to reconcile his atheism with paternal love,which Bone subsequently passed onto Drummond.Playing on the cheeky, wayward Scot/repressed Englishman schtick, the likeable pair have an easy onstage chemistry, even if the pacing is at times a touch too languid.
Augmented by Simon Wilkinson’s mood lighting, Karen Tennent’s encased totems of evolution and a gorgeous, atmospheric score from Scott Twynholm, the subtext is life and death. Bone ruminates on whether he said enough to his father,who recently passed away. Drummond is pondering if baptising his baby boy to appease his dad would make him a hypocrite.
They enact scenes from the book,weaving them with parallel scenes from their own lives,which shaped their own beliefs. All Things Bright and Beautiful is turned from an innocent wide-eyed hymn to a furious meditation by Drummond on how Christians fail to question evil in the world, piety, and natural disasters. It’s a really potent scene.
Gently eccentric in the main, it may not offer ready answers, but that’s scarcely the point. Above all the message is an emotive one,immune to proselytizing: that we,as with the contents of the cabinets behind them, are but temporary-mere ephemera- and must talk openly and honestly with our parents.
They brought us into the world, and regardless of ideological differences, we love them as they love us. The ending may be ambivalent, but it’s deeply heartfelt.
Reviwed at Tron Theatre
Touring until November 18th