Sam Holcroft’s new play, Cockroach at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, explores the effects of a long-running war on a class of pupils about to embark on their adult lives. It opens up for us the personal conflict of choices when society’s normal structure is suspended by something outside an individual’s control.
From the start there are glimmers of an Orwellian country in crisis. A school where teachers have to carry walkie-talkies for help with classroom crises. Where sometimes the line is dead. Meg Fraser’s teacher teetering on the edge of control, wrought with her own private moral struggle is superb.
The first section of the play grips you with anticipation, and I found myself immersed in utterly believable characters. There is humour, anger and sorrow in a fine-tuned balance.
Later, as the war imposes its authority in the classroom the plot-lines become a little more untamed. While the play evokes the inevitable hysteria in the air, there were occasions where Cockroach lost me.
I found myself wondering if many of today’s teenagers would really wrestle with the internal conflict of self-preservation versus moral duty. Or do those attitudes belong to another generation?
Intense and moving performances from all six actors carry this play. There are some superb moments of observation and clarity. For the sheer power of seeing in-your-face raw talent, this well-worth a visit to the theatre.
Cockroach runs at the Traverse Theatre until Saturday 1 November. Full details can be found over at the Traverse website.