Lifelines, Traverse Theatre, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Stasi Schaffer (Director) Grace Cleary, Ellie Stewart, Sylvia Dow, Mary Gapinski (Writers)
Sheila McDonald, John Shedden, Mary Gapinski, Michael Dylan
Running time

It is never really clear what it is you’ll see at the Traverse until you have watched it; there are certain disclaimers, such as ‘script in hand’ and ‘new writing’ that give you a hint, but the brief is never enough to tell you what it is you’re about to see.

Lifelines is one of these. It is informal; a group of four actors, reading and performing a set of eight monologues and dialogues. Free the West Lothian Forty, A Little Touch of Cliff in the Evening, Mary by Mary¸ and Neil Diamond Saved My Life in particular strike at the theme of growing older; the theme of the Luminate festival, of which this performance is part.

Luminate is Scotland’s creative ageing festival, which is held every October, brings together older people and artists across generations to share stories and create new ones in celebration of the ageing process. Two of the four actors were of the older generation, and while it was wonderful to see them act so beautifully together, there was no interaction with their younger counterparts. Several of the texts addressed the ageing process and referred to their character’s youth, and how they have changed over the years, but there was no connection between a younger person and an older person, therefore the subject of the art did not seem collaborative.

Each piece is written artfully and carefully, and demonstrates an ability to conjure a story within minutes. The pieces themselves are really lovely and it is a tribute to the talents of Grace Cleary, Sylvia Dow, Ellie Stewart and Mary Gapinski that they were performed with so much feeling and understanding from all four actors. Although some monologues left one wondering what relevance they had to the topic in question there is no doubt that they were amusing, clever, moving and sometimes downright funny.

For a script-in-hand event, the scripts do not obstruct the performance at all – a rare thing to find in rehearsal performances like this. As a showcase of writing this is a brilliant outlet, with the scripts in the very capable hands of Mary Gapinski, Sheila McDonald, John Shedden and Michael Dylan they are really brought to life most tenderly, with great respect for and understanding of the subjects. The most moving were those that spoke of age with the great retrospect of youth; namely A Little Touch of Cliff in the Evening and Neil Diamond Saved My Life, both performed by John Shedden and Sheila McDonald. Perhaps because these addressed a level of change which comes with growing older, they particularly resonated with the theme of the evening.

Although it isn’t always clear whether there is a theme to the collection, they are all given a beautiful quality by the simplicity of the staging and the unpolished air of the informal setting. A great opportunity to hear some delicately woven new writing.

19th October, 7pm