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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Pit      Spring 2000

David Greig's new play for the Royal Shakespeare Company is an attempt to capture Scotland's experience of the 20th century through the lives of three women, all named Victoria.

Aside from its inordinate length of well over three hours, the facts that what he thinks Scotland's experience was is not very clear, and that the three women seem peripheral to what else is going on in the play, keep him from succeeding.

In 1936 the first Victoria is a Highland girl. The new laird of the manor, a proto-Fascist, is also a total looney, and when he seduces another local girl, Victoria's lover and another man kill him before running off, for totally unrelated reasons, to the Spanish Civil War.

Victoria departs to Argentina, not to be heard of again until the final act.

Act Two is set in 1974. The second Victoria is an American geologist who has survived a helicopter crash near the village. She combines forces with a local hustler to buy the estate from the laird's widow for some unnamed get-rich-quick scheme.

In Act Three, 1996, they've grown rich strip-mining the local mountain for granite and are fighting environmentalist protesters.

Their daughter, Victoria #3, has Poor Little Rich Girl syndrome, searching for direction in her life until fulfilling the dying wish of her grandfather (one of the Spanish veterans from Act One) either connects her to the past or frees her from it. (Here, as elsewhere, Greig's symbolism is murky.)

All three Victorias are played by Neve McIntosh, who does her best to disguise the fact that the characters are all ciphers and almost completely disconnected from the rest of the play.

The rest of the cast play different roles in each act, sometimes replacing each other as characters age, so it repeatedly takes a while to sort out who's who.

As far as one can see, what Greig is telling us is that the 1930s were a time of confused idealisms of the right and left, that the 1970s saw the decay of the old aristocracy and the rise of the yuppies, and that in the 1990s the rich got richer and the poor poorer.

Well, yes, but it hardly needs three and a half hours to deliver this message.

And while it was almost certainly intentional on his part to make the three Victorias more bystanders than participants in history, it makes for disjointed and uninvolving drama.

The play keeps telling us it's about them, while the only potentially interesting characters and events keep getting thrust into the background, their stories unfinished and characters unfleshed-out.

One keeps running into this: an interesting idea for a play, desperately in need of several more rewrites and considerable editing before it becomes a play, but put on anyway, to no one's credit.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of Victoria - Barbican Pit 2000

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