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Edinburgh Fringe 2021

Distance Remaining

Helen Milne Productions

Genre: Contemporary, Experimental, Film, Theatre

Venue: Assembly Showcatcher


Low Down

During covid isolation we see into the lives of a granny, an aid delivery volunteer and a young lad walking his dog on the beach.  All have their own very personal plight, and all have a very personal resolution- the script and filming style is playful and quixotic and not always successful, but the acting is impeccable and in the end,  we find ourselves having gone on their journeys – it grows on you.  With  Karen Dunbar (Chewin’ the Fat), Reuben Joseph (National Theatre of Scotland’s Rapunzel) and Dolina MacLennan (Still Game).



We start with an elderly lady on the floor in the midst of a medical emergency (a heart attack? we are not sure and nor is she).  For 20 minutes we hear her stream of consciousness monologue as she views  surrounding objects  on the floor (a dog’s bone, a broken child’s plate, a biscuit) and these lead her to reflect on her life- old hurts and comforts.   “Is it my time?” she asks,  between unsuccessful attempts to reach her cell phone on the table.   In the second story, a  woman volunteer drives, covid masked, to deliver aid packages which appear to be mostly unwanted.  As she drives, anxiety mounting;  she sings along with music, talks to Siri, and dials and redials an unseen Kylie.  We track her growing frustration and watch her taking selfies and playing up for the cell-phone camera between moments of ranting.  It is an oddly poignant and funny monologue, and the fact that the camera angle is from the perspective of a toy dog on the dashboard gives an innate humor to her sadness.  “I am a people person,” she yells into the telephone.  “I just want to DO something.”  The third story comes from a young man on a cold beach, calling for his missing dog, and then walking the shoreline  while his internal thoughts are voiced: about his failures in life (“I was fired for lateness for every Saturday job”), about school humiliation, about his relationships.  There is the despair of pointless isolation, a tense phone call, and  a final moment of joy when he splashes through the water and curls his toes in the sand, after which the dog reappears.

There is a mix of theatricality in the presentation: although the close-ups of the 3 actors in their bravura monologues are done with filmic precision; the granny is shown briefly on the floor within an animated outline of her apartment.  The volunteer is shown in her car and then the camera pans out and we see the car is in a film studio with fake scenery projected around it.  A giant arrow is drawn in the sand on the beach showing our lad where to go in his search.  In all three stories “reality” is broken in unexpected ways, and then quickly returns to filmic realism.  I personally have no idea how to  process the plot lines.  The sum of the parts did not quite add up, and the audience could have used a little more  climactic build for each story.  There is resolution at the end, but what triggers it was not exactly clear. We are left with three committed and stellar performances- the production was beautifully cast and playfully executed-  but without a clear sense of emotional build or a sense of why these specific stories were juxtaposed to each other.  However, the style grows on you, and I stayed with each monologue without checking my watch.  A good experiment and a very good show.