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Edinburgh Fringe 2011

Unanswered, We Ride

Theatre Daedalus

Genre: Drama


The Space UK on the Mile (2)


Low Down

A montage of airline announcements from various destinations cleverly places us in an airport. A vulnerable lady is awaiting her pickup… His lateness is distressing, revealing her to be at a life-crossroads, from whence we are flashbacked into a romantic world of true love, perfect children and domestic bliss when… unspeakable tragedy shatters the idyll. Pitting husband against wife, their diametrically opposite abilities to deal with ensuing grief threatens to shred their union…



Familiar territory this is and the fodder, no doubt, of many a film and tv drama or the kind of evolved hyperdramatic "workshopped theatre" that this reviewer normally shies from. Indeed, cinematic in style and substance it very much is as the three actors, using only a karaoke machine, two bench seats and a very significant suitcase, become the various protagonists within the story. The young woman centrally  narrates: using ‘present historic’ to relate past events in the here-and-now in a way that enables true emotion to be rekindled rather than reported. Hers is the mind we are delving into. The confessional nature of her monologue neatly gives way to scene playing with the other actors who weave around her covering all the other parts from father to boyfriend to husband to airline steward or mother-in-law to friend to stewardess… As I said… it is well trodden ground… The execution is all.

In the very capable hands of three superb actors, Joy Barrett, Joe Tippett and Martha Wollner and concisely directed by Elena Araoz, Jaclyn Villano’s 65 minute playlet is delivered clearly and seamlessly. Barrett’s Reese is something of self-confessed emotional being. After having been swept off her feet in lightning romance in to glorious marriage with three children to a seemingly wonderful man who never fails to cradle her frailties in compliments, undying love and empathy. But when their tragedy strikes, her inablity to "drag herself out of bed" to shower her love on her remaining two girls leads her to near nervous breakdown. Needing to get away from it all, the central theme of getting on a plane to go somewhere else away from where home is supposed to be comes to the fore. Not comprehending of how her husband can deal with his own grief so practically while she is so wrecked, she bolts, first to her nuts-and-bolts father – and thence, after his not indulging her, to Ireland and, eventually, her loving mother-in-law.

It is all so deeply emotional that even as we wonder why we are locked in this small room listening to this confessional, it is all so well drawn and so empathetically portrayed that that we are drawn in. We are made to care about the family. We become desperate for them to hang together. We love the husband and hope that he will not take the easy route and chuck her out for her indulgence. He doesn’t… he is of course… patient and honourable – and, near the end, we learn why.

Though the story is brimming with cliche, it still delivers the goods and, while the evolution and inevitable denouement are not unexpected, they come so well packaged that one can’t help caring. Deeply. Barrett is real and vulnerable. Tippett is exquisite in his portrayal as both caring husband and godlike father. Wollner is delicious as salt-of-the-earth-mother-in-law and Sadie – the bohemian barmaid. But the real honours should go to Araoz for directing this out of the dirge it could have been in less capable hands. Instead, we are taken to a place we otherwise would not go and might not want to if we had the choice, but we are made to empathise and care. I found myself wiping tears away more than once, and left the room, better for it.