Theatre review: The Sunnyside Centre

IN THE big function room at Hibs Supporters' Club, four small audience groups are gathered, clutching plans of the space in four different colours.
The Sunnyside Centre is the safe place to beThe Sunnyside Centre is the safe place to be
The Sunnyside Centre is the safe place to be

Hibs Supporters’ Club, Edinburgh ****

Yet the atmosphere is not quite its convivial self; there’s an undertow of menace and unease, as guides in black woolly hats steer us to our places, and into a future where this building has become the Sunnyside Centre, one of the few remaining safe and sociable spaces in an Edinburgh devastated by decades of harsh authoritarian government and nameless catastrophe.

A troubled-looking conjuror tries to entertain us with a trick involving a precious can of fruit; and then, for an hour or so, we’re off around the corners of the room, hearing four beautifully-written monologues of despair, rebellion, and faint, flickering hope, set in a city where the urban landscape remains familiar, but convivial human life is all but dead.

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This is the first-ever full production from Edinburgh’s Village Pub Theatre, specialists in readings of tiny ten-minute plays at their base in Leith; and in Caitlin Skinner’s thoughtful production, it makes a moving and memorable piece of site-specific drama, powerfully performed by actors Crawford Logan, Jenny Hulse, Kirstin Murray, John Macaulay and Pierce Reid.

It’s rare to see five writers – James Ley, Tim Barrow, Helen Shutt, Louise E. Knowles and Sophie Good – co-operate to produce themed pieces that work so intensely together. And it’s unique, in my experience, to see that collaborative work linked so closely and passionately to the space where it takes place; or to a vision of that space as it might be, in a future most of us hardly dare imagine.