Zinnie Harris has pruned and retrained her 2009 two-hander, set in a world running short of resources, to create a compact, intense, 40-minute contemporary opera with a score written and performed by John Harris. Playing in an off-site space close to the Traverse, the show takes us into a rundown kitchen, the home of Mac (Alan McHugh) and Jane (Pauline Knowles). They are a childless middle-aged couple, attempting to hang on and survive as global temperatures rise, the electricity supply becomes intermittent and food and hope run short.
Jane has had treatment for depression: everything seems very bleak. Mac, though, is still trying to find some solutions to the world’s problems, working on a project that has been running for seven years without success. Her eyes are wells of emptiness; he exudes the short temper and bland cheerfulness of a man at his very limits.
Then an apple tree sapling begins to push its way up through the couple’s kitchen lino. A manifestation of her depression or a real tree? A symbol of hope, or a final cruel reminder of all that has been lost in a world where nobody has seen an apple for years? The metaphors may be slightly strident in this dystopian kitchen-sink version of Adam and Eve, but Harris’s score – which undercuts and heightens the emotion, adding a clammy, discordant sense that something not at all good is about to happen – has a restrained beauty that is both terrible and moving.
This is like a quiet Greek tragedy, quietly affecting as the couple realise that in this barren wasteland, Eden can never be recreated. Beautifully performed by McHugh and Knowles, this is a small shoot, but a delicate and tender one whose tendrils take root in the heart.