City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Theatre Review: Leave To Remain

By Alex Eades - Posted on 09 May 2009

Jo Clifford
Show Details
Scottish Storrytelling Centre
Jo Clifford, Suzanne Dance
Running time: 

There is nothing more terrifying to me than the thought of losing somebody that I love. I try, like most people I'm sure, not to think about death too deeply and too often. Why would you? I don't consider it to be a healthy pass time. We see it every day live on satellite TV and wash it down with a bucket of coke. No need to take it further.

The simple fact of the matter is that, unless it comes ringing on your door bell, death just does not seem very real too any of us.

Did you do everything you could? Love them enough? Spend enough time with them? Call them? Were they scared? Did they say everything they wanted to say before the lights went out?

When I lost my Gran these were just a few of the questions that crept through my mind. And as a confirmed atheist, it is especially hard as there is always the temptation to turn to something else to make yourself feel better when, in your heart of hearts, you do not believe it to be true.

And so, I really did not know what I would find or expect to take from Leave To Remain.

Jo Clifford lost her partner of 30 years in 2005. Suzanne Dance lost her mother in the same year. Together they came up with Leave To Remain. A mixture of storytelling, silence, music and an invitation to reflect and remember somebody you have lost. A practical and spiritual journey about grief and how to get to grips with it.

Being an atheist and a bit of a cynic, I found some of Leave To Remain a little bit hard to swallow.

Whilst it does come across as genuine and heartfelt, Jo and Suzanne read from a prepared script which they claim is there in case they get caught up in the moment. I do not doubt it, but in doing this they put in a performance. The two are acting. This performance creates a wall, which makes it harder to identify. A wall between us and them. Between what is real and what is not. Between life and death.

That said, there were times when Remain was very affecting. A section about the dying seeing a door, weeks before their actual passing, and the desire to walk through it was deeply touching no matter what you believe. The real punch was when Suzanne opened up an unnoticed door at the back of the theatre letting in the evening sun. The audience were invited through like the dying by heaven's angels. We walked together, unknowing and as one. What we entered was a beautiful garden to the sound of Sarah Whiteside's gorgeous cello. Candles, birds, trees, a setting was a moving moment that brought a mighty lump to my throat. Probably the closest I'll ever get to walking through the gates of heaven. A moment I may not forget until my time finally comes.

If you know Jo and Suzanne, then I think you will find this very worthwhile and you may, as a few did, shed a tear. If you do not know them, then you might find yourself feeling a little isolated at times despite best intentions.

If anything, it does put things into perspective. It sounds cliché.....but it is true. You will be reminded, though you will no doubt forget as we all do, about what is truly important. The things you own...the flag you wear...they mean nothing at the end of the day.


Death is something we will never get used to because we're human. The best we can do is live.

Live everyday as if it were our last? Well, then we'd never stop saying goodbye!...

Just never be a slave to the grave.

Show times: May 7th to 9th at 7pm