The old sink in the corner of the Anatomy Lecture Theatre at Summerhall is the accidental prop that reveals the relentless handwashing just off stage by Maureen Beattie’s unnamed character before this European première of the play from celebrated Québec dramatist Jennifer Tremblay begins.
The story is a narration of one woman’s anguished adjustment to village life. She copes and gives her life order by making lists. She has a husband and children yet feels alone as she looks out of her windows seeing only fields and ‘vicious bitches’.
Then she meets Caroline whose sticky fingered children with their chaotic way of living are at the opposite end of the spectrum from hers yet they become friends. Caroline believes that ‘with children love is so easy’ and becomes happily pregnant with her fifth child. When she does, she asks a favour of her organised friend. But in her lists within lists; her categories of tasks whose importance shifts daily, this vital one gets disastrously forgotten, life’s minutiae blinding her to what really matters.
The set for this wonderfully absorbing feminine play is a bolted, rusted, bevelled screen with watery reflections created by the effective lighting design by Jeanine Davies in this space with a skylight so high it looks as though it is reaching for the stars. A howling wind, and sinister musical sounds from Philip Pinsky, set the tone for the haunting and affecting tale of an unlikely female friendship and the sad ramifications of its result. The red motif in the earrings, lipstick, top and flowered cardigan of Beattie’s costume is evidence of the subtle sartorial influence of Scottish artist John Byrne.
The play is set in Québec but tells a universal feminine story about the coping mechanisms that women find to get through what can be a lonely daily routine with the script itself comprising a series of lists. Beattie plays this self- confessed intense and obsessive ‘bitter fruit’ who has a horror of chaos with pleasing assuredness. Her performance proved her to be a truly stellar quine as was evidenced by the rapturous applause she received at the end.
The List was winner of the Governor General’s Award and was performed as a rehearsed reading at Traverse on 26 January 2012. After the festival period the play will tour to The Byre in St Andrews, Cumbernauld Theatre and Birnam Arts in Birnam and Dunkeld.
Stellar Quines is an award winning Scottish theatre company that celebrates the energy, experience and perspective of women putting female practitioners at the forefront of all creative roles.
Show times: 21 – 25 August, 2pm
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