City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Finding Libby Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 05 August 2013

Kate Saffin as Pauline in Finding Libby
Show details
Assembly Hall
Alarum Theatre
Running time: 
Kate Saffin (writer), Moya Hughes (director), Dominic Hargreaves (sound design), Tim Howes (original music and sound design), Harriet Saffin (props).
Kate Saffin (Pauline)

In the Baillie Room up a few flights of stairs at the Assembly Hall, the stage is set with a bench and tea chest as we hear the soft melody of a sea shanty.

A grey haired lady suddenly barges her way into the theatre, (intentionally assumed to be a latecomer, I surmise!), and carrying a small suitcase she climbs on to the stage.

This is Pauline, dressed in a beige skirt, blouse and cardigan, sensible lace up shoes and an anorak. We learn she is a nervous traveller but has been persuaded by her friend Lilian to take a trip, “a holiday is what you need”, and booked her on a week’s cruise on the English waterways.

Just getting to the meeting point at the station has been an ordeal, as she relates in a series of amusing anecdotes. Self-deprecating in her honesty and prudish attitude, they reveal a good deal about her solitary spinster’s life in her suburban semi-detached house.

The easy confessional manner in which she addresses the audience is entirely natural – as if Pauline is talking to herself, so concerned is she about joining a group of strangers on a hotel barge.

Her "cosy" cabin is neatly created, where she sits, perching nervously on her single bed, to unpack as they set off. A simple soundtrack is so effective with the clanging of a bell, the murmer of the engine, rain storm and bird song.

The intimate setting and autobiographical-personal memoir narration is immediately reminiscent of Alan Bennett’s beautifully poignant TV dramatised portraits about ordinary English women, performed by Thora Hird or Patricia Routledge.

With a similar, tightly-constructed storytelling style, we listen, empathise, laugh and cry, as Pauline shares her daily, often embarrassing, experiences on the cruise.

It’s a time for reflection, stirring up difficult memories of childhood with her overly protective, respectable parents. But meeting new friends on board opens her eyes to come to terms with, and escape, the past on her emotional journey along the canal.

Kate Saffin captures Pauline’s shy, self conscious and vulnerable nature with heartfelt insight and compassion.

Finding Libby is rich in wry humour and subtle observations; without the farcical antics, imagine the personal angst and social awkwardness endured by Miranda Hart (20+ years older) and you’ll get the picture.

Show times

1 - 26 August, 2013 - 12 noon daily.

Ticket prices

Mon-Thur, £10 (£9). Fri-Sun £11 (£10)

2 for 1 offer: Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 August £11 (£10)