Theatre Review: True West - Citizens Theatre, Glasgow ✭✭✭✭✭

With the soporific sound of crickets enveloping the theatre, Sam Shepard's compelling play True West brings some Californian sunshine and a glimpse of its dark heart to the frigid Glasgow winter. 

Alex Ferns is domineering and darkly compelling as society dropout Lee. Seemingly down his luck he provides a perfect contrast to Eugene O'Hare's preppy and outwardly successful Austin. Under Phillip Breen's direction their chemistry crackles as they pace around each other and the audience marks time with them waiting for the atmosphere between the brothers to reach boiling point, when it does the energy is explosive. Their physicality and intensity is beautifully framed by Max Jones's cinematic set. Dysfunctional families are a mainstay of reality television but the underlying darkness and fragility of the brothers' relationship on a knife edge is deeply unsettling particularly because of Ferns' ability to transform in a second from apparently mild-mannered to ruthlessly threatening.

The brooding sibling rivalry in the play spilled over as the howling of the coyotes intensified while the rain pounded the roof of the Citizens with all the wrath of the Gods. It was so loud that for a moment it felt like part of Andrea J Cox's dramatic soundscape as the play reached its crescendo and somehow added to the dramatic tension - the flooding outside the theatre soon brought the audience back to reality. 

As the heat intensifies the action on stage boils over teetering along the edge of reason leaving the audience laughing hysterically and with an unsatisfied craving for toast. Barbara Rafferty's arrival as the brothers' Mom leaves the audience nervously laughing as she surveys the devastation and the dysfunction of the family becomes even more evident. 

This American classic deserves to run and run at the Citz but Glasgow would soon have a bread shortage as the toast craving audiences spilled into the night. Unmissable.

True West is at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow until 16th November. For tickets and information visit