A Slow Air

Real-life siblings Kathryn and Lewis Howden are perfectly cast as estranged sister and brother in this strong play from David Harrower

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Published 09 Aug 2011

Atholl and Morna haven't spoken for many years. They may be brother and sister, but in many ways they are as similar as chalk and cheese. He is a picture of Scottish working-class conservatism; she is the wild child rebelling against her family's small-minded sensibilities. She lives in capital city Edinburgh in the East, he in a little village in the West. Something in their past has driven them apart, something that has created an unbridgeable fissure between the pair. And it's not until Josh, Morna's slightly strange son, turns up at his uncle's house unannounced one day that their paths begin to converge again.

A Slow Air is the latest work from the pen of David Harrower, who burst onto the scene in 1995 with Knives in Hens. Through the alternating monologues of Atholl and his estranged sister, Harrower explores the recurrent themes of family, community and lifelong regret. Real-life sibling pairing Lewis and Kathryn Howden are perfectly cast: brother a perfect picture of sturdy, understated Scottish working-class masculinity; sister a model in anarchic restlessness and devil-may-care sass. 

If there's a problem with A Slow Air, it's that a massive great plot point is left to fizzle out untreated. Just what exactly is wrong with Joshua, a character portrayed at times as a white supremacist in the making? Given that he is the subject of much intrigue for much of the play's 90 minutes, allowing the whole thing to slide by as the performance reaches its conclusion is somewhat unsatisfying. But this is perhaps a minor quible with what is an otherwise vitally strong production.