Somebody once wrote that a man is the sum of his memories. Proving this are the characters at the centre of The Tron’s new production of Michael Healey’s The Drawer Boy as they try to come to terms with the past.
In 1970s Canada two ageing farmers, Angus (Brian Pettifer) and Morgan (Benny Young), are approached by young Toronto actor Miles (Brian Ferguson) who wants to spend some time on their farm.
Miles is researching for a theatre project and the experiences offered by the very real world of the farm are perfect for his course. The fact that Angus has a memory which barely recalls events that took place a few moments before means that what should be a straightforward placement becomes something more complicated.
The conditioning of any theatregoer – or anyone immersing him or herself in any fiction – means that all seemingly innocuous phrases or happenings are treated with suspicion. Here, the central question of how Angus lost his memory becomes the hook on which the rest of the play hangs, the suspicion being that darkness lurks somewhere amongst the hay bales.
It’s to the credit of all involved that the slow burning story, surely leading to the aforementioned darkness, almost makes one forget that there must be shadows around the light. The interaction between Angus and Morgan is a respectful one, showing two friends who have spent a lifetime together and who know each other so well that to be apart just isn’t an option.
Confined to a farmhouse set that made me want to walk in and make my own jam (or is that jello?) sandwich, the actors are allowed space to build up the emotional world they inhabit. Though perhaps never as warm as the physical environment on show – that’ll be the darkness I mentioned – it’s no less real, the sustenance of friendship and memory as vital to these people as the milk from the cows or the eggs from the chickens.
The Drawer Boy allows time for reflection from both those on stage and in the stalls. Neither flashy or high-concept, this is a play to savour in its simplicity, gentle humour and thoughtfulness.
Thanks for the memories.
Review by Jonathan Melville
The Drawer Boy is on at The Tron, Glasgow, until Saturday 24 May.
Read the itsonitsgone.com preview and watch the trailer for The Drawer Boy.
Photo by Douglas Robertson