A Slow Air by David Harrower

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Saturday Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 1 December 2012
Athol (Lewis Howden), and his sister Morna (Susan Vidler) have not spoken to one another in fourteen years.  Now they decide to tell their stories in monologue delivered direct to the listeners; everything they talk about is in the third person.  We learn of their struggles to come to terms with life; their reactions to one another, as well as their reactions to Morna's twenty-year-old son Joshua, who makes the first move towards reconciling his mother and his uncle.  As the drama unfolds, so Athol and Morna gradually learn to overcome their differences; in a climactic moment at the end of the play, they meet in a pub where they used to meet when they were young, ostensibly to celebrate Joshua's twenty-first birthday.  The encounter is not without its problems, but at least there is a hope of reconciliation.
David Harrower's production of his own play was utterly compelling; this was in part due to the two actors' performances of two characters who were at once stubborn yet vulnerable.  Athol and Morna wanted to re-establish close familial ties, yet could not make the first move.  It was left to Joshua to contrive a meeting.
At another level, however A Slow Air could be read as an indictment of contemporary cultures, whose people implacably embrace certain beliefs - some might say prejudices (Morna claims to be a fervent SNP member, Athol believes that only Scotland could produce "crap terrorists," and even Joshua has some odd things to say about Muslim cultures).  If only they could set aside such preconceptions and learn to listen, then perhaps their lives might not be so fraught, with feelings of insecurity, loss or disillusion.  This is perhaps why A Small Air works so well on radio; like Morna and Athol, we have to listen to what the characters have to say and draw our own conclusions.