David Harrower’s brother sister story goes from Glasgow to Kilburn via New York

The Scottish playwright brings sibling rivalry based on his own experiences growing up to the Tricycle

�When Scottish playwright David Harrower wrote his recent two-hander A Slow Air, he had a Scottish audience and a quest to write monologues in mind.

“It was only ever meant to play Glasgow. It was just a wee show I wanted to try and write and direct – I’ve never written a monologue before – this is two monologues interlinking.”

It sold out Glasgow, then Edinburgh before transferring to the 59E59 theatre in New York. Now his little piece of Scotland is coming to London.

“When I first wrote it there was no sense of a wider audience, so nothing was made easier for an American audience.

“It’s a very Scottish piece, but it seemed to break through, so I am happy.”

A Slow Air is the story of a brother and sister separated for 14 years – sharing with the audience their not-so-fond memories of their upbringing.

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The sister is a single mother who works as a cleaner and drinks, while the brother is a small business owner who is proud of his achievements. The characters find themselves questioning where they are as they look back.

“It’s two versions of one story. The way each character sees things says as much about them as it does the story.

“As the narrative goes on you are broadening your understanding and you are coming to believe them – and whether you like them or not you are drawn into it through a narrative propulsion but also empathy or your stance towards this character.”

“Most people do – if not daily, then quite often – ask: what am I doing with my life? Why am I with this person? Why am I talking to this person?

“There’s a constant sort of questioning about our relationship with people and where we think we have got in our life.”

Since his first work – the critically acclaimed Knives in Hens, the 45 year-old writer’s work has included lots of introspective characters, but this time it’s a little more personal.

“They are based on a composite of different people in my family. I wanted to look at people I grew up with and knew about and I heard about through the family and use them as a prism to look at where they are in themselves and where they are in the country that they live in.

“They are based on several people I knew when I was growing up. In our family, as in all families, there are people who don’t talk to each other, there are secrets.

“I’ve reclaimed in my own head some kind of family lineage and also some of the Scotland that I grew up in.”

The play has received a favourable reaction outside of the Scotland it was aimed at. Nic Kent, after seeing the show in Edinburgh, told Harrower that “it revealed a history” to him, before putting the show on his outgoing schedule for the Tricycle.

The work was surprisingly easy to write, taking Harrower, who is based in Glasgow and has recently fathered his first child, only a couple of months to finish.

“It tapped into something, things I have been wondering about in my own family and Scotland, so it did kind of gush out a wee bit,” he says.

“This is probably the first one that’s directly plugged into things that I remember. It’s an imagined history of people in my childhood. I’ve never done that before, maybe that’s why it came out so easily.”

n A Slow Air is at the Tricycle from May 7 to June 2.