Damned Rebel Bitches, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Poorboy with Mull Theatre
Sandy Thomson (Writer/Director), Jeremiah Reynolds (Dramaturg/Film Design), Natasha Jenkins (Designer), Roy Fairhead (Lighting Design), Dave Boyd (Music/Sound Design), Ruth Mills/Vince Virr (Choreography),
Tina Gray (Ella), Eilidh McCormick (Irene), Geoffrey Pounsett (Pete), Jeremiah Reynolds (Cameron)
Running time

Eighty-something Ella is not the usual cardigan-donning, hard-candy-sooking pensioner - she’s a damned rebel bitch. Through a complex flashback structure and a tale that spans 71 years of Ella’s life, Sandy Thomson’s play crumples up the template for elderly women as shown in theatre and replaces it with sturdy scottish matriarchs.

Full to the gunnels with plot, Thomson intertwines the life story Ella and her older sister with Ella’s infatuation with Peter - a soldier who took them in, that she later marries - alongside his wartime demons, and topped off with the misdemeanours of her grandson across the pond. All of this is pushed along by the imminent arrival of hurricane Sandy.

Pinned on a backdrop of attic debris, this acting quartet exude passion and dedication to Thomson’s plot heavy play towing you along for the adventure. Led by Tina Gray’s exceptional adaptability, conveying every stage of Ella’s life from childhood, through adolescence into motherhood and beyond, the age blind casting makes a firm statement without causing too much distraction.

Performing opposite Ella is her older sister, played by younger actress Eilidh McCormick, who conquers scenes in their later years with as much subtlety as Gray does the younger. That being said none of the cast are able to pull the focus from Gray as she drives the story forward, coaxing the audience to stay with her.

Overwhelmingly complex at points but never short of a storyline to grip onto, Poorboy’s Damned Rebel Bitches offers a new take on the women we are all so proud to have descended from, without covering them head to toe in knitwear and insisting they stay seated for the strenuous bits.

Touring to Platform in Glasgow, Harbour Art Centre in Irvine and Paisley Arts Centre until Sat 7 Oct