Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Tom Holloway’s beautiful new play is a nuanced, subtle, piece of theatre of high calibre.
Begining a show with silence takes courage, both for the director and the actors on stage. Holding the stage for 30-40 seconds without dialog or movement takes well-seasoned and scrupulously focused actors at the top of their game, and Dearbhla Molloy and Bill Paterson are just that. ‘And No More Shall We Part’ at The Traverse Theatre is a play where much happens in the spaces between the text, where intense pain and loss meets familiarity and ease, the juxtaposition of any long-term relationship or marriage.
Writer Tom Holloway approaches the theatrically familiar theme of terminal illness with a lightness of touch that belies the heavy subject matter, with sparse, honest dialog and characters that we can all recognize and empathize with. The beauty of the opening few minutes of the play lies in the instant knowledge that these two characters are waiting; waiting for something to happen, but we don’t know what or why, and director James Macdonald balances the tension with ease.
Molloy’s ‘Pam’ is stoic, determined, and ever vigilant of the fact that she does not want to draw out her illness once she knows it is terminal. She knows the suffering and indignity that awaits her, and potentially her family, if she chooses to keep fighting a losing battle and decides unequivocally to get out before she is unrecognizable as the wife and mother she is now, despite the protests of her husband Don (Paterson). Paterson’s understandably distraught ‘Don’ is pitched just below the point of breaking for most of the play, stumbling beautifully in his inexpressiveness and confusion. Both Molloy and Paterson give understated, finespun performances full of tension, honesty, warmth, and veracity.
There is an atmosphere of suspension of time in the performance, of the actors taking their time in telling the story, moving through the labyrinth of emotions and tensions with care. There are lingering images that pull at the heart, as when Don has been sent from Pam’s death bed to go to sleep, but he only gets as far as the other side of the door, lying down like a faithful lover at the closed door with his open palm against the wood, a desperate bid for some kind of contact with the wife he is about to lose forever.
The production and lighting design (Hannah Clark and Guy Hoare, respectively) underpin the action with simplicity and subtlety, never interfering with the flow of the piece but always a presence helping to move the story forward. The on-stage tech crew at either side of the stage is slightly distracting at first but it fits in with the modern, stripped down rotating set.
The impeccably timed and poignant dialog never falters and 90 minutes sees us moving from present to past and back again, from the last supper to the decision to stop treatment and back again to the death scene. There is clarity in the movement between past and present, never muddy or confusing, always clear. This is a delicate, nuanced show with pathos and polish, a highlight of this year’s Traverse line-up.