If you’ve ever spent time in an airport waiting for a delayed flight, you may have passed the time wondering about your fellow travellers and what their stories are. What are that irate couple sitting opposite arguing about? Are those two over there just good friends or something more? And why is that woman at the bar dressed like something out of a 1950s movie?
The writers of In Transit have obviously thought the same, and have based their ensemble piece around the premise of holiday makers, business travellers and ground staff forced to face a day thrown together as they wait for their departures to be announced. Personal stories unfold as the day progresses until the flights finally take off, dissolving forever the transient microcosm of society that has been created.
Actors Kitchen are an Edinburgh based actors collective who use their time between jobs and auditions to meet and practice their skills. In Transit is their first production, and is produced by Marion Shortt and directed by Mark Prebble. Prebble, together with four other writers, has created the script; whilst Shortt and eight other talented and watchable actors perform the piece, some taking on several roles through the course of the 80-minute production.
The collaborative origins of In Transit are obvious, with several vignettes standing in complete isolation, unconnected to the others beyond sharing the setting. Two stories do however permeate the piece: one examining the dynamics of a couple on the brink of a life-changing decision; and another dealing with the tense and fragile relationship between two sisters, each seeking escape and redemption in different ways.
Although In Transit is set against the backdrop of a real-life event (Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi being flown home to Libya amidst tight security, hence the airport-wide delays), this is largely irrelevant to the minutiae of events portrayed. Only one segment deals specifically with these events in a poignant piece written by Prebble himself: the rest are more concerned with the impact on relationships, most of which are already worn thin to the point of breaking.
Some of the standalone stories leave you wishing for a little more in terms of exposition or length; but that is more to do with the quality of the writing and characterisation than a criticism of their content. Two in particular – bittersweet slices of human observation penned by Helen Bang – are particularly effective and moving, and could easily form the basis for larger pieces in their own right.
That said, Prebble exercises measured and well-paced control over the segments, ensuring that In Transit is a satisfying piece as a whole; at its best when the tales intertwine and effect each other.
Performances are equally controlled and impressive, with the 9-strong cast demonstrating great ability to portray nuances of emotion and inner motivation. Particularly strong are Shortt herself and Danielle Farrow in the ‘Sisters’ thread, with Shortt’s clipped and frustration-borne performance as a member of the ground staff contrasting with Farrow’s wide-eyed and childlike portrayal of her psychologically-damaged sibling. This piece is the core of In Transit and is written and performed excellently, resulting in a moving and memorable backbone to the whole production.
Another standout performance is Margaret Fraser’s bullish, intolerant and foul-mouthed business executive. Her appearances throughout the piece are memorable and – given they provide the main relief from some of the intensity of the other segments – always welcome.
As a debut, self-produced piece, In Transit is an accomplished and well-formed piece of theatre and Actors Kitchen deserve recognition for their achievement and large audiences for the remainder of their run at The GRV.
In Transit runs at The GRV, Guthrie Street until 21st November. £8 / £6.50 concession