Theatre review: Coming Clean: Barbara, Oran Mor, Glasgow

Wendy Seager is in heart-rending form as a woman whose world is turned upside down
Wendy Seager is in heart-rending form as a woman whose world is turned upside down
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WENDY Seager is one of Scotland’s finest actresses, quietly plying he trade mainly in theatre and in radio drama; but I have rarely seen her in such heart-rending and sometimes terrifying form as in this magnificent and disturbing new monologue by veteran playwright and screenwriter Alma Cullen, inspired by recent #metoo revelations of previously unreported sexual misconduct in high places.

Coming Clean: Barbara, Oran Mor, Glasgow ****

The woman Seager plays, Barbara, is the contented – indeed smug – stay-at-home wife of a senior policeman, and mother to an adored only son, now a doctor.

Her life changes in moments, though, were her husband is abruptly arrested, and charged both with sexual assault against numerous teenage girls, and with holding pornographic images on the computer in his out-of-bounds den. At first, her story is one of defiant denial and immense loneliness, as the seriousness of the charges becomes known in their respectable middle-class community; then, in a sudden, slightly awkward change of gear, Barbara succumbs to a kind of raging grief, as she recognises the fact that she, too, has been one of her husband’s victims, groomed for decades as the perfect, respectable wife to cover for his much more sinister sexual interests.

All of this is conveyed with such intensity, in Wendy Seager’s performance and Marilyn Imrie’s production, that it’s impossible not to remain riveted, throughout, to the image of the lonely figure on stage, undergoing this painful transformation. In the end, she transforms herself again, in a way that’s both astonishing and believable, leaving us breathless at the scale of the social change she has navigated, into a completely new moral world.

JOYCE MCMILLAN

Final performance today.