The Nest ***
TRAVERSE THEATRE, EDINBURGH
HILLWALKING, climbing, mountaineering: in the space of a few years, itís been transformed from a nerdy minority pastime into one of the iconic activities of the age, the subject of a small avalanche of recent plays, films and books, and a pervasive symbol of - well, what? A final passionate love-affair with a natural environment under threat? Or just a craving for a pure, simple physical challenge, an awayday from the bitchy complexity of everyday urban life?
Either way, this emerging aspect of yuppie lifestyle receives another worthwhile airing in Alan Wilkinsís flawed-but-promising debut play for this yearís Traverse tour, which begins brilliantly, with an ill-assorted bunch of five storm-caught hillwalkers erupting into the clean, empty space of a bothy near Sgurr Mhor. At the heart of the drama are Colin and Helen, a thirtysomething couple who have been grimly bagging Munros together for five years in an attempt to patch up their marriage, but are now reaching the end of the line, and the theme, pointedly illustrated by the other characters, is not so much what you can find in the mountains as what you can leave or bury there, once youíve worked out that you no longer need to carry it.
The trouble is that this central motif is both too heavily flagged up by symbols and metaphors, and sold short by a failure, both in the language of the play and in Lorne Campbellís slightly evasive production, to enter fully into the deep pain of loss involved in such burials. Somewhere in the story of Colin and Helen, though, and particularly in Matthew Pigeonís outstanding performance as Colin, thereís the shadow of an important play about the urge to walk and climb, and whether it represents a desperate flight from reality or a significant shared experience. And if Wilkins has not quite written that play yet, thereís more than enough energy in this one - in its fine opening and closing scenes, and in the sharp, earthy best of its dialogue - to suggest that one day, he might.