Now who in this country could ever forget the scandalous misdemeanours of Dominic Cummings and his trip to Durham? What a political mess. Or what about the resignation of Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood after she too broke the lockdown rules? Regardless of the logic, the UK is angry. Why should the public follow one set of rules, whilst the politicians seem to follow another? Can we sympathise with the natural human emotions and struggles that they too must be going through? These are the questions explored in the National Theatre of Scotland’s newest addition to the Scenes for Survival collection, Larchview, directed by Jack Nurse.
After visiting his mother at Larchview care home, the Chief Medical Officer to the government must prepare and record a speech of apology after breaking the nations lockdown rules. As a result of his actions, 17 residents lost their lives due to an outbreak of Covid-19, including his own mother, and he works to process all of this.
Funnily enough, Rob Drummond handed in this piece of writing the day before Dominic Cummings was exposed, but it’s a text that’s now more resonant than ever. Entirely on the nose, we see this character search for the correct words to say to the public, knowing that he’s under immense scrutiny. The story consistently changes, getting more tragic with each new retelling – sound familiar?
Drummond’s piece plays with your morals. This is a story of one human at breaking point. This man is in a job with monumental pressure, he’s lonely, struggling mentally and craving connection. Who hasn’t been there? It’s very easy to dehumanise politicians in the media because they’re damned if they do, damned if they don’t. It’s impossible to know if anyone would act differently in their shoes or if they can really ever be redeemed or forgiven for their mistakes.
Mark Bonnar gives a brilliantly torn performance. Detailed in micro-expressions, it’s an intimate unravelling of male emotion that sits in a place of troubling discomfort. Like an actor finding the correct delivery of a monologue, this character struggles to justify his own actions, even to himself. As the scale of his actions become clear, the character works through pain and remorse – he cannot take anything back, no matter how much he regrets his choices and that is a hard thing to live with.
Even now, we may find ourselves attempting to justify our own behaviour to others, to ensure that everyone knows that no rules have been broken, and we’re not even under the scrutiny of the world. It’s a confining time where we should be supporting each other, not jumping down each other’s throats. Larchview makes the viewer think and sympathise with the story because we are seeing the person. Behind the anger, forgiveness may be found, but it doesn’t always have to be. What’s important is that we see a human.
Larchview can be viewed on the National Theatre of Scotland’s website.