Review: Paper Bag

Urban Fairytale Theatre Company
Govanhill Baths, Glasgow 19-22nd May 2016
2 Stars (2 / 5)


Paper bag, penned by Heloise Thual – 2015 winner of Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland’s New Playwrights Awards, is a brutalist piece in the In-Yer-Face (real genre) tradition of Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill and Anthony Neilson.

Brutal it is. It portrays the dysfunctional mal-developed emotional lives of two orphan children isolated from the world, neglected, and abused by their psychotic and tyrannical aunt. Appealing to the morbid and obscene the story lacks depth and meaning. It does not broaden or develop; the characters do not evolve or change; there is little climatic material or anything in the way of a visible anacrusis. The end, featuring an accidental death, even lacks impact.

What opportunities there are within the arid material are not seized upon by UFTC. There are few variations in the characters emotional delivery, the entire play takes on a monotonous quality. There are a series of “role-plays” where one child places a paper bag over his head and acts out a role, but he does not transform into someone completely new when he takes on these characters – there is little difference in cadence between their role-plays and their roles. The play is repetitious, contributing to a feeling of bland ennui. Sometimes the material is so dramatically macabre it verges on the ridiculous – and the audience, waiting for something to happen, might at any moment break into an embarrassing giggle, and if one of them goes – everyone will go. Nothing happens.

Sarah Kane enthusiasts might find something to relish in this tasteless cadaver, but the average theatre-goer may simply leave a little confused as to what they missed.