ABERDEEN Performing Arts’ production of the Cone Gatherers was something I’d been looking forward to for the better part of a fortnight beforehand, and the production didn’t disappoint.
Jenkins’ book is resplendent with sweeping background themes, and a sinister prescient tension. The performers managed to recreate it down to a tee, improving the story - I’d suggest - in its visual execution.
The play follows Traveller brothers Calum and Neil, who are employed on a Highland Estate during World War 2 gathering pine cones to regenerate forests depleted by the war effort. They encounter Lady Runcie-Campbell, the landowner and staunch defender of aristocratic rights; her sympathetic and sensitive son Roddy; and the increasingly unhinged gamekeeper Duror, whose mental imbalance and intolerance for imperfection form the dramatic centrepiece of the story.
Each performer more than does his or her character justice. Particular commendation goes to Ben Winger, whose performance as Calum had so much potential for being hackneyed, yet comes across sympathetically. Tom McGovern’s repressed and oppressed Duror dominates the stage, struggling with a mental illness nobody else understands. The sets and the music interface well, creating the oppressive, brooding atmosphere of the forest and a class system that condemns everyone to a position set in stone.
Everyone will take their own meanings from this one.