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FringeReview Scotland 2020


Citizen's Theatre Young Company

Genre: Drama, Fringe Theatre, New Writing, Theatre

Venue: Scottish Youth Theatre


Low Down

Cameron has awoken on a bed – problem is that it is in the middle of the sea. We already know that, in reality it is in a hospital and following a suicide bid, but the theatrical metaphors abound as Cameron’s reality in her head now meets a Captain who wants her to complete her journey and an Engineer wanting her to return to her shore. As she falls majestically off her bed she meets herself in a variety of settings from being young to seeking help to having a conversation with herself that seems to suggest that taking control and making choices means she needs to finish her suicide bid. Whilst her mum anxiously awaits her in the hospital, the inner working of her mind, played out for us onstage reach a more positive climax, and is destined to show that loving yourself is a message that will never lose its shine.


Catriona’s McNicoll’s beautifully crafted script may bear some comparison to Anthony Neilson’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia but where Neilson’s script has a theatricality built in, McNicoll’s lack of obvious spectacle gives us an authentic and truly real fusion onstage. The words have an authenticity not just because they feel like they come from a place of understanding but because that heady mix of theatre space turned into true ensemble performance has been so excellently handled and that the cast have sprung from the words and not been burdened by them. This is a writer with clear vision but also the ability to have confidence in her words that give a director and the rest of the creative team an opportunity to support, develop and deliver.

The direction of Neil Packham uses the cast as backdrop, set, props and incorporates many a choreographed set piece that builds towards an important conclusion with a clear message. The direction is not light but determined; determined not to let such an opportunity to take the truth and drop it in some mush of saccharin sweetness and a wagging finger but just allow the script to breathe, explore and explain.

The cast, all imbued with the right sparkle of naivete that enchants and tells a simple tale becomes part of the absolute joy of what we saw. We can get quite sniffy about the quality of our young actors, hoping for a maturity that is impossible to create with a younger cast but what we got here was people playing people who are these people. They may not be exactly these people – they are actors after all – but the interplay between them, even when they play older characters – was about the perspective of being young in a world where that is insufficient to be enough to cope. That vitality, freshness, challenge and joy of just being comes a ross in bucket loads. Their freshness however is preyed upon by anxiety, expectation and the message from past generations that things are not OK and they have to pay attention because they are likely to get worse. Oh and whilst you are at it, just achieve, will you? Here the actors have given their full voice and range to the complexities in away that gave voice and did not shrilly shout what it must be like to be young and troubled – dare I say, even young and normal.

In particular the interplay between the captain, engineer and Cameron – in her many guises was excellent. Cameron, in her role as the lead, gave us the right level of confusion, excitement, WTAF and inner revelation to build carefully towards us being onside. By the end when she awoke, I cried. It came from God knows where but it made me realise how much I had invested in this piece and how much it had touched me, made me wonder and realise and think about others throughout. Aint THAT what theatre ought to do and THAT is what it did here.

The set pieces – Somewhere Beyond the Sea and the floating pillows, the cuppa tea support group, the character of Alex, and the many stormy scenes – were particularly impressive. The choreography set up and brought freshness to the message by Jen Edgar was exceptionally well integrated and performed. The use of the cast in their various guises kept things theatrically present. The theatre arts were all there to support and not cast a shadow over the words, the experiences and the authenticity of the message – that life is indeed a beautiful mystery is brought to us whole and complete.

Mental health needs a dialogue. Theatre and literature can point to how it has tried to engage and here we have an exceptionally erudite and worthy companion to that discussion. It is genuine and worthy without doubt but is it theatrical? This proved theatre has the power to affect change and should be at the forefront of our debating next steps for young people. I was much impressed and again found myself making comparison with other young companies but soon realised that the best I can say about it is that despite being out their theatre, the Citz have once again given theatre back its voice and delivered it to the people.


Show Website

Citizen's Theatre