Men in the Cities
A SOLDIER is murdered by Muslim extremists. Around the same time, a young gay man commits suicide. Somewhere in between the two events is Men In The Cities, Chris Goode's solo response to what it means to be male these days.
Standing at a microphone flanked by an array of electric fans, Goode ushers in a series of criss-crossing lives, including the suicide victim and his partner, an older man taking stock, a punk-and-porn obsessed ten-year-old, and indeed Goode himself as his authorial voice dips in and out of the narrative.
Goode's style is laid back, with his patchwork of everyday ennui in Wendy Hubbard's production being undercut by some deadly one-liners.
That's what men do, you see. They make light of things, however serious, in a piece that's about Goode's methodology as much as anything. He can play God, he says, and kill off any character he doesn't like.
Eventually, all his and his characters' bottled-up rage explodes in a torrent of frustration, confusion and out-and-out terror of the world.
This is Goode showing his sensitive side, and a whole lot more besides.
John McCann imagines a post-referendum Scotland that voted for independence in his new play for the Traverse, Spoiling, which forms part of this year's Made in Scotland strand.
The country is now squaring up to a bold new future. Or, as maverick Foreign Minister-designate Fiona emerges from a mountain of screwed up paper after an all-night session in her home office redrafting her flagship speech she's giving that day alongside her Westminster equivalent, is it?
The trouble is, the unnamed party she's a minister for has got wind that she's about to go seriously off-message, and has sent political minder Mark to keep her on track.
Mark uses words like "dis-positive" and was schooled in Northern Irish politics, so knows how to play hardball.
Fiona, however, pregnant and plain-talking, has got wind of an even greater plot designed to undermine the new regime.
As political satire, the absurdity of McCann's script recalls Dario Fo or Vaclav Havel in intent. Such comparisons show just how low politics has stooped in what is currently the UK in Orla O'Loughlin's production. Fiona's creative swearing comes straight from the Malcolm Tucker school of charm, with each phrase delivered with relish in a whirlwind of a performance by Gabriel Quigley for what might just be the first post-referendum play.
The Carousel is the second of Quebecois writer Jennifer Tremblay's trilogy of solo plays to be produced by the Stellar Quines company, following Muriel Romanes' Herald Angel-winning production of The List.
Here, we meet the same female narrator, played once more by Maureen Beattie in a more expansive if no less beguiling work. As she channels the voice of her grandmother, the woman tries to tap into all the family secrets that shaped her in ways she doesn't fully understand.
At the forefront of these is the reason why her mother was sent to boarding school while her brothers and sisters stayed at home. The answer, when it comes, is the most painful of revelations.
There's an exquisite artfulness about Romanes' production that takes it beyond the words of Shelley Tepperman's translation, however rich they may be.
Flanked by John Byrne's ornate set and bathed in the near-holy glow of Jeanine Byrne's lighting, both elements conspire to make something exquisite. Its heart, however, remains in Beattie's performance, a magnificent mix of the fragile, the vulnerable and the tower of strength she must be as she finds the most troubling of enlightenments.