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Borders Fusion, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

THERE's a problem at the heart of the recent spate of regionally-themed compendiums of short plays that have been championed of late.

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Sure, it's important for audiences to get a taste for indigenous culture beyond the central belt, as well as for writers and artists to move into the body of the metropolitan kirk, as it were. But, unless writers are nurtured beyond the show-and-tell stage, it smacks of tokenism and insularity. Sadly, this is, largely, the case with these 10 vignettes by six writers from the Borders for Simon Crouch's Cross Country Theatre Company. For while, on the whole, they exist solidly enough in their own backyard, there's an unwillingness and lack of ambition to engage with anything beyond it that's at fault, while at the same time it wears its influences on its sleeve all too transparently. So we're offered a local version of Under Milk Wood minus the smutty bits - big mistake - before Scottish literature is reinvented with Walter Scott as a Dracula figure, leeching the life blood from his rural retreat. Which is about as post modern as it gets. There's an X-Files-type sketch about a local monster and a trio of static and punchline-free routines set on a Hawick park bench, which are topical enough, but little more than interludes. Only Tom Bryans's The Eighth Deadly Sin - a tale of flatulence on the Edinburgh to Hawick bus - and Jules Horne's astonishing Pawkie Paitterson's Auld Grey Yaud, based on a traditional poem, which finds an ageing horse setting out its last will and testament, attempt to use the local demotic in any way vaguely contemporary, or else attempts to transcend the everyday into a world of unselfconscious poetry. Director Stewart Aitken's production is a solid, if unspectacular, affair in which three actors shoogle betwixt and between on a set that's 50% superfluous. Textually speaking, there's simply too much reliance on history here, and only with a little more imagination will Borders be crossed into the truly dramatic.

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