Theatre review: Pleading, Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan, five stars

IT’S the stuff of gap-year dreams: back-packing across the globe, storing up adventures and experiences before settling into university studies. In Pleading,this scenario has become the stuff of nightmares: Michael and Freya are in a scary foreign jail, charged with drug trafficking and – in this (unnamed) Far Eastern state – facing the death penalty if found guilty.

Rob Drummond’s tautly-wrought three-hander was initially a radio play, broadcast earlier this year on BBC Radio 4. You could, I suppose, close your eyes and just listen to what is a thoroughly well-crafted drama, one where the overlapping truths and lies tease you into real-time swithering as to what, or who, you believe. But in this co-production with the Traverse – paced with a nice degree of tension by director David Ian Neville – you get hooked into the sheer wretchedness of the choices facing Michael and Freya because of the performers’ body language and facial expressions.

As Daniel Cameron’s Michael crumples into himself when details of Freya’s flakey tendencies emerge you see, or think you see, a naive 19 year old blinded by love. And Allan’s Freya, a bit strung-out and mouthy with it, ticks so many of the boxes labelled “ selfish, immature” that you frankly question her much-protested innocence. Their barrister Amelia (Nicole Cooper) has been here before, forced to confront deluded Brits with the reality of a situation that is unlikely to have a happy outcome. The truth, it seems, will not set you free. Nor will your UK passport. The lie will keep you alive, but in prison. And what’s love got to do with how you plead? Drummond twists and turns this knife-edge dilemma into a remarkable modern morality play – a schools tour is what’s needed now.