WARS, and rumours of wars: at his best and worst, Howard Barker is obsessed with them, and with what human beings can do, in pursuit of them.
Star rating: * * *
And if his great 1983 play Victory shows him at his best, this strange set of ten interludes, first seen in 1988, and now directed by Guy Hollands for the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, perhaps represents Barker at his most bitter and repetitive, spinning harsh comedy and horror from a series of scenes across a war-torn continent.
Playing alongside Victory over the weekend, The Possibilities provides a demanding showcase for RCS students, as they move through ten ten-minute plays, from the aftermath of Judith’s sexually charged murder of Holofernes, to a final scene in which a recent totalitarian state tries to discipline a woman for showing her ankles. Cassandra Pettigrew’s fine set, lit by Oliver Gorman, uses a few simple walls of battered wooden planks to evoke palaces, hovels and bomb-torn cellars; the link between sex and power, sex and sudden death, is brutal and constant.
And if the young actors sometimes struggle with the text’s strange balance between comedy and catastrophe – or to develop characters that are more than sketches – there are still some fine performances; notably from Jessica Hardwick and Maria Teresa Creasey in the final play, and from Scarlett Mack and Sophia Carr-Gomm as old woman and young woman in The Necessity Of Prostitution In Advanced Societies, a sour and ferocious epilogue to a failed revolution.