Theatre preview: The Missing @ Tramway, Glasgow

Published by METRO

On March 19 2009, Claudia Lawrence, 35, failed to arrive for her morning shift as a chef in York. She was immediately reported missing, but two-and-a-half-years later, posters appealing for information on her whereabouts still hang in the city.

Given the high profile of this case, this probably won't come as news to us. But we still care, don't we? While her name may feature in only the yellowing front pages of tabloid newspapers today, we continue to hope for a happy ending. Yet Claudia represents only one of a staggering number of Britons who have still not been found. Every year in theUK, more than 250,000 people go missing. But, besides melting into this statistic, what actually happens to them and their families?

In his debut novel The Missing, Andrew O'Hagan approached this hypothesis with a journalistic endeavour and a human sensitivity. He set out to meet the grieving parents and teenage runaways behind disappearances that fail to make the headlines and occur on a daily basis. The result was a deeply sad and moving work that alluded to notions of community and alienation, and it made the shortlists of three literary awards following its publication in 1995.

Eleven years on, the story is making a bold leap from the page to the stage. The piece begins with a Scottish journalist reporting from outside the home of Fred and Rosemary West, wondering to himself why more hasn't been made about the lives of their victims. Who were these women, he asks, and why were many of them not reported missing? His search for answers takes him back to Glasgow and Irvine during the late 1960s, in a journey that evokes the childhood memory of a young boy vanishing from his neighbourhood.

O'Hagan has had considerable influence over the creative process behind the production, which has seen him work with the National Theatre of Scotland's John Tiffany for the first time since the pair's collaboration on 2009's Be Near Me - a dramatisation of another one of the author's works.

Complementing the play is a new video installation by contemporary artist Graham Fagen, entitled Missing, which again draws on themes of collective memory and personal responsibility in context of the issue as a societal concern.

It may be difficult to look forward to a couple of events of such a sombre nature, but it's easy to get excited about two world premieres of great promise. Tramway is one of the best in the country at showcasing challenging and purposeful works, and it looks like it's got it right again here.