E V Crowe’s first full-length play, Kin, set in a girls’ school and throbbing with adolescent angst, at the Royal Court last year, served notice of an exciting new playwriting talent.
Her short new play for nabokov and Hull Truck, Young Pretender, animates the colourful episode of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape to Skye after the Jacobite uprising in 1745 with the same sort of energy and urgency.
But it’s slightly undone by assuming too much historical knowledge. And it’s too coy about the identity of the three characters – Charlie himself, his military sidekick and the heroic, romantic figure of Flora MacDonald – trying to make a case for them without laying the groundwork.
Admittedly Crowe is avoiding the pitfalls of costume drama in this, but you can’t just slip in a reference to the Battle of Culloden without registering its significance. Or rather you can, but then the reference is meaningless.
Joe Murphy’s production is a classy affair in a tiny Underbelly space, very well designed by Joanna Scotcher with a panoply of national flags, English and Scottish, and green scrubbed cottage walls in the Hebrides.
And gangly Paul Woodson strikes an engaging and charismatic figure as the hot-headed Charlie, plagued by self-doubt but convinced of his cause, and there is strong support from Chris Starkie and Rebecca Elise. This is one short play, though, that could benefit from being a lot longer.