Theatre review: The Angel and the Manse, Glasgow

Oran Mor, Glasgow. Picture: Contributed
Oran Mor, Glasgow. Picture: Contributed
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How they hate and hurt one another, the couple at the heart of this impressively well-made debut play by Glasgow actor George Docherty.

The Angel and the Manse | Oran mor, Glasgow | Rating ***

The minister, Martin, suffers from heart trouble, walks with a stick, and suffers from chronic bad temper; his slightly younger wife, Sarah, drinks a bottle of wine over dinner while drenching her husband in sarcasm, and in barbed comments on how her life as his wife, in a remote Highland parish, has made a mockery of her youthful dreams. Enter an angel, in the shape of a beautiful young man drenched by the storm outside, who is immediately welcomed by Helen, and suspected by a jealous Martin. Over a brief 40 minutes, this quiet young visitor – beautifully played by Ewan Petrie – watches the couple, and invites them to consider what it is they want, that they feel the other is taking from them; and then he departs, leaving them changed.

The play’s main dramatic problem is that both Martin and Sarah – played with a dark acid energy by Alan Steele and Helen Logan – are so intensely dislikable, in their treatment of each other, that it’s initially quite hard to care what becomes of them; and in Martin’s case, it gets no easier as the play progresses.

Yet in this first play, Docherty has produced a powerful and distinctive piece of Scottish drama, with echoes that go back to James Bridie and beyond; and audiences in Aberdeen will also have a chance to see what they make of it, when it moves on there, next week.

• Oran Mor, Glasgow, until today; Lemon Tree, Aberdeen 1-5 March