[author-post-rating] (2/5 stars)
Blythe Duff is a seriously talented actress, capable of commanding the attention of an auditorium with absolute ease, as if the large audience were merely a handful of friends at the pub. It is a pity that Ciara fails to do justice to her talents.
There are a lot of ideas in David Harrower’s wordy script, and though each is unpacked and considered for some time, none of them feel quite developed or finished. Ideas are the one thing this play has plenty of, too many, even; Ciara ends up feeling bloated and over-stuffed.
Duff plays the epnoymous Ciara, whose father was a Glaswegian gangster of the old school – anti-drugs and not too keen on killing. His friends all have slightly preposterous names, reminiscent of the odder-sounding Kray twins associates, like Jimmy the Hat or Billy Fingers, or that sort of thing. Ciara’s father was a dangerous man, but he kept her as shielded as he could from the horrors of his day-to-day life – her innocence an island for him. Of course she knew everything.
Ciara talks a lot about her childhood, her recently deceased father, the younger brother, Ciaran, who died of an overdose in his twenties. Her father’s preference for variants on this name is never explained. Ciara, we quickly realise, is far steelier than Ciaran ever was, steelier even than her husband, who has succeeded Ciara’s father in the running of the family business. There was never any question that it would pass to her, of course – a woman.
Ciara stops just short of feeling like a feminist text, in spite of several feminist themes, because its heroine is absurdly passive and has been that way her entire life. She seems to learn very little over the course of the play, change very little; she owns an art gallery now, complains of women sitting at the sides of paintings like adornment, but is content to be little else herself.
Two main stories run concurrently. Firstly, the return of an artist who was a bright young thing before his various addictions withdrew him from the art world; Ciara exhibits his return exhibition in the gallery she owns and runs, and also forms an emotionally intense relationship with him. Meanwhile, we hear bits and pieces about a gangland revenge struggle her husband’s men are involved with. The writing leaps wildly and with little notice between both of these plotlines, and on to reminisences from Ciara’s past, her childhood, her father’s rise to power, the absence and death of her mother. Thrown into the mix along with crime and drug overdoses and art and feminism are a few other light conversational topics, like Catholicism, sex and death. So just a bit of light-hearted fun, then.
There are reams of themes and half-formed thoughts here, some of which are hugely interesting but none of which seem to quite go anywhere, and though Duff gives a completely believable and very watchable performance, it’s not enough. Ciara is far too muddled and ultimately a disappointment.
Ciara can be seen at the Traverse at 17.30 every day until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit: https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/ciara