Image by Stewart Armstrong
Kieran Hurley's shocking and unexpectedly humorous new play is a story of an unlikely friendship.
Salisbury Crags. Twilight.
A woman takes a step forward into the air.
A teenage boy pulls her back.
Two lives are changed forever.
Libby whiles away her days in New Town cafes and still calls herself a writer.
Declan is a talented young artist struggling with a volatile home.
As they form an uneasy friendship, complicated by class and culture, Libby spots an opportunity to put herself back on track, and really make a difference.
Mouthpiece takes a frank and unflinching look at two different sides of a city that exist in ignorance of one another, and asks whether it's possible to tell someone else's story without exploiting them along the way.
Note: contains frequent strong language, descriptions of violence, scenes of sexual nature and references to suicide.
Supported by Creative Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council.
Plays that frame their stories around actors, writers, directors and other personnel who work in the theatre can sometimes feel incestuous.
Biographies might be notable exceptions, but works of this ilk seem to assume that because we're seduced by the glamour of the stage - as, indeed, many of us are - we'll automatically be intrigued by the antics of actors, the struggles of playwrights, the foibles of producers.
Setting a play within the contextual world of the theatre can have questionable merits and bland results - though I readily admit that that is a sweeping generalisation.
Glancing at the synopsis above, you might readily conclude that Mouthpiece wanders into this territory of what might be termed creative inbreeding since one of its characters is a writer - specifically a playwright.
But Mouthpiece does not merely employ a theatrical framework to gratuitously feed on our interest in the mystique of the stage.
In fact, this enterprise turns out to be a hugely potent discussion about how people's lives can be exploited and, in the process, misunderstood even given the best of intentions.
Moreover, it effectively examines the political and social implications of how we view and understand the lives of different people, especially those of the poor.
A once successful playwright, Libby, resides in the creative doldrums unable to find the kind of ideas that might be creatively and commercially successful, as well as socially meaningful.
She seems at the edge of despair when we first meet her and when she first meets teenager Declan on the clifftops in Edinburgh.
This quiet spot is where Declan comes to draw and find space to be on his own away from the harsh and violent reality of his impoverished home life.
Almost literally thrown together, Libby finds something in Declan's art that offers her creative potential and seeks to form a friendship with the lad, introducing him to the mysteries of the art gallery and, later, wheedling information from him about his family relationships and background in order to write a new play.
A clash of culture, ages and status, Mouthpiece plays out on a simple set of stepped rostra used to define different levels.
And the whole stage is enclosed by a giant picture frame that makes the play appear like it's almost hanging in an art gallery, linking it with Declan's drawing that is also the source of the title.
Lorn Macdonald (left) and Neve McIntosh - Photo by Roberto Ricciuti
There are stand out performances to savour from both Neve McIntosh as Libby and Lorn Macdonald as Declan, with the latter giving an exceptionally moving portrayal that is at times heartbreakingly authentic.
And Kieran Hurley's hugely intelligent and provocative script blows apart my preconceptions about theatre-based plots, cleverly widening the setting to question our assumptions and prejudices about the real nature of different lives.
The result is brilliant and unmissable theatre that really packs a powerful punch.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for Soho Theatre
Our show listing for Mouthpiece
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