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Trapped together in a locked bathroom is hardly the best way to kindle an estranged relationship, but then again nothing is easy for mother and daughter Margaret and Ella. 

 

On a remote island in a Northern Scottish archipelago, Ella is leaving to board a ferry. She has a wedding to attend, and it will be a welcome opportunity to leave the stress of her newfound motherhood behind. Except her mother Margaret wasn’t born yesterday and locks them both in the bathroom until the ferry leaves – it seems ‘wedding’ is a strange term for political activism in the Arctic that serves to destroy oil rigs in its waters, and Margaret does not approve. 

 

Inspired by the 2013 arrests of 30 Greenpeace activists who boarded an Arctic oil rig in protest, Clare Duffy’s nuanced script elegantly explores the conflict between ethical and pragmatic duties. Ella wants to change the world so that her son can grow up in a better place, but Margaret is more concerned that Ella remains a part of it. 

 

An unflinching look at family dynamic, Duffy’s script excels in understanding the human psyche. Presenting a rich and multithreaded private background, Jennifer Black’s Margaret and her calm façade work well in contrast with the genuine desperation of Neshla Caplan’s Ella. Gareth Nicholls’ direction places a well-placed focus on maintaining familial normality in an otherwise unconventional situation, and moments of tension are emphasised by a careful framework of peaks and troughs throughout – even if some of the friction did originate from a somewhat incongruous subplot involving the father of Ella’s baby and a sabotaged mission.

 

A well-grounded and thought-provoking piece, Arctic Oil captures the essence of familial frictions within the structure of wider duties. Questioning whether or not the price of saving the world outweighs that of leaving it, this succinct production is highly commendable in its efforts.

 

Arctic Oil runs at the Traverse Theatre until Saturday 20th October 2018.