Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Susan Hamilton is in pain. She has returned to her mother’s house to clear it and called on someone to give her a hand. She happens to calls on Sean to help thanks to an advert in a shop window, realising that it may be her childhood friend. When he arrives, and he finds her struggling what follows is a trek to the chemists, to the doctors, back to the chemists and then home to share memories, thoughts, drink and fairy lights.
Graeae come with a reputation which has been enhanced by this portrait of life in Skelmorsdale. The two characters inhabit a very strong and vibrant environment filled with offstage acquaintances who appear with the types of nicknames from which people cannot escape and with the types of reputations that could ruin careers. It makes for an interesting mix and the script manages to draw you in and make you part of the collective. Later on it does leave you with unanswered questions but the premise established early on, it promises much.
Graeae have always been an inclusive theatre company and with Sean having a mother who was strung out on drugs whilst Susie has restricted growth, we get a real feel of the awkward silences that must have all been part of growing up.
The performances are very much on the money. We get a sense of companionship and all the frustration that follows as Susie refuses to be patronised and helped in the way that Sean sees she may need. On top of that there is a genuine warmth between them that serves to deliver a performance filled with nuances and delight.
The direction is light and welcoming with some very deft touches. There is a set which is highly creative with some good subtitle work – we need more of this integrated into theatre, we really do – that allows the entire performance to be truly accessible.
The lighting was particularly good with the finale with the fairy lights a real revelation.
Overall, we get a play, over an hour, that covers what it is like to be part of a small community as well as what it is like to be thrown together whilst trying to make sense of childhood. We end up with the two of them making compromises but there is still, for me a sense of not finding an ending that satisfied.
I suppose it is always good to leave people wanting more but there were elements of the piece that left me unsatisfied – why was she not in touch with Sean for some time? What was she suffering from and in pain from – was it really yoga? I wanted more and left a tad frustrated but then again good drama might occasionally aim for that.