Fatherland at the Gate theatre

A play about incestuous love is subtle and shocking.

Fatherland is a play of great power, both subtle and shocking. The Australian playwright Tom Holloway's two-hander is set on a single evening, the action taking place in one room, in which a father (Jonathan McGuiness) and his teenage daughter Angela (Angela Terence) attempt to spend some innocent time together. He cheerfully suggests takeaway pizza and DVDs while preoccupied with a game of dominoes. She calls him a "giant loser-nerd"; he protests that he is "cool" and proposes that they go to a "concert" -- eliciting familiar adolescent disgust from Angela. But menace and discomfort soon creep in. The sharp rhythms and repetitions of their exchanges begin to reveal a far more troubling relationship.

The great merit of the play lies in its evasions and omissions, and its refusal to descend into some hysterical and graphic depiction of a Fritzl-style nightmare. What is portrayed is complex and challenging, as the play moves beyond the boundaries of naturalism. Both the set and dialogue enact different forms of collapse. When the father insists that the abuse he has inflicted was "done out of love and with love" and that "together we have something and share something that other people will never understand" we hear, on one level, the repulsive excuses and justifications of the paedophile. But beyond this, the play alludes to a number of complicated ideas and truths about the nature of love itself and the way in which it can be transgressed, defiled or transfigured. In the performances of these two actors, we see how each individual forms their own emotional narrative and versions of the past in order to make sense of the present. Cycles of confrontation and conciliation develop. A morally abhorrent and unacceptable love is born out of something genuine, leading to a final, disquieting moment of stillness. It is appropriate, given this painful subject matter, that Fatherland's ending resists any neat resolution.

Fatherland runs at the Gate until 12 March.

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Listening to recordings from the Antarctic, I felt I could hear the earth groan

The Science Hour on the BBC World Service.

A weekend of listening to the radio news ­revealed nothing but sounds of the sucker-punched going through their pockets in a panic and repeating, “I thought you had the keys.” So, never was talk of “a perfectly flat area of just whiteness” more alluring. The oldest Antarctic ice yet recorded was recently found. “For millions of years,” the presenter Roland Pease assured listeners  (25 June, 9am), “snow has been falling, snow on snow, all the while trapping bubbles of air and other chemical traces of climate . . . insights into the ice ages and warm periods of the past.” How was this ice located? “The finding part is pretty easy – you just go there and start shovelling, and ice comes up,” the lead geologist, Jaakko Putkonen, said.

There it was, buried under a layer of dirt “in barren wastelands” high in the middle of Antarctica. An “incredibly mountainous and remote and . . . quite hideous region, really”, Pease said, though it was sounding pretty good to me. The world dissolved into a single, depthless tone. Then Pease mentioned the surprising fizzing of this ancient ice – trapped air bubbles whooshing as they melt. Which is perhaps the thing you least expect about ice regions and ice caps and glaciers: the cacophony. Thuds and moans. Air that folds and refolds like the waving of gigantic flags. Iced water sleeping-dragonishly slurping and turning.

On Friday Greenpeace posted a video of the pianist Ludovico Einaudi giving a haunting performance on a floating platform to mark an imminent meeting of the OSPAR Commission, as it decided on a proposal to safeguard 10 per cent of the Arctic Ocean. Einaudi looked occasionally stunned by the groaning around him. A passing glacier popped and boomed like the armies of Mordor, ice calving from its side, causing mini-tsunamis. When last year I spent some time at the remote Eqi Glacier in Greenland, close to the ice cap, local people certainly spoke of the ice as if it were living: “It’s quiet today,” delivered as though gazing at the fractious contents of a Moses basket.

“This huge cake of ice, basically flat”, Putkonen said, perhaps longing for a moment of deep-space silence, for peaceful detachment. He wasn’t the only one being forced to reappraise a landscape very differently.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 30 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit lies