The singer-songwriter and playwright Sam Siggs is a familiar face around Edinburgh, and perhaps it is reprehensible that Tychy has not seen any of his plays until now. “Misanthropy” is presently established at C Eca. Siggs’ actors have lately graduated from a new “stage and screen” degree which has been initiated between Edinburgh’s Napier and Queen Margaret universities. “Misanthropy” is apparently set in the south-east of Edinburgh, near to St Leonard’s police station (ie Rebus’ headquarters) and its events take us back to last November, when Nick Cave had descended upon the Edinburgh Corn Exchange.
A few years ago, this play would have invited comparisons with Irvine Welsh’s chirpy Leith proles shtick, but Welsh’s influence is surely dispelled by now. “Misanthropy” nevertheless captures authentic Edinburgh voices. In fact, after a while the theatre seems to melt away. When the characters are swearing and bickering with each other, I could be back at work.
The title is something of a red herring, as the majority of this play’s characters do not have the heart for misanthropy. If you want to experience real misanthropy in Edinburgh, then go to a “People and Planet” meeting and listen to our city’s finest environmentalists condemning humans for ruining the planet and spoiling it with their innate greed and stupidity. The folk in “Misanthropy” are bruised and battered by human wickedness, but not demoralised. Yet one would scarcely think this from the review which was written by Andrew Currums for Broadway Baby:
The misery is all-consuming, so much so that the characters are compelled to miserably soliloquise their misery at every possible and miserable opportunity. Staring miserably out into the blank misery of the audience they ask, ‘Why I am alone? Why can’t I love? Why won’t they love me? Why, oh why, am I so amazingly miserable?’
Currums may be dismayed to learn that I only went to see this play because I liked the sound of it from his review. Evidently Currums was already planning his pointless vindictive stunt half way through the play and so its redemptive ending passed him by. In any case, Faye (Katie Milne) is so “amazingly miserable” because she has been raped. Bradley is “amazingly miserable” because he has been the victim of a savage assault. Considering that the only actual criticism to be made by Currums is that “Misanthropy” is “miserable,” then the whole of his review could apply verbatim to Othello.
The devil has always had a hand in Edinburgh’s fiction, and the only true misanthrope in Siggs’ play has a shade of the demonic to him. An anonymous stranger rapes Faye at a party and after the vigilantes get the wrong guy, Mason (Steven Potter), an unknown quantity, steps out of the blue to exploit the escalating violence. For Mason, all “human interaction” has lost its novelty, and he seemingly gives himself to violence so that he can feel again.
If the rapist has gone awol, Mason in the least offers something of a counterpart. Yet the story’s innocent, Oscar (played superbly by David Edment) counters Mason with an instinctive, if occasionally compromised morality. Mature writing and acting are likewise evinced when Faye pits herself, without any support or counselling, against the might of her misery. After her rape, she goes to a concert and dares herself to make friends with a stranger, just to defeat her loneliness. Nevermind that she fails – her example is a kick in the teeth for misanthropes and miserablists everywhere.