Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
August, 2002

**** Terrific family/prison piece that avoids all easy answers

Rona Munro's play avoids any artificially tidy endings, and is all the better for it as it delves into a mother and daughter's past.

Josie has not seen her mother Fay for fifteen years: Josie has been working in personnel in California, while Fay has been serving a life sentence in a Scottish jail for murdering Josie's father. When the daughter comes to visit, hoping to regain the childhood memories she has lost, we see Fay both in control manipulating her visitor and events in the prison and quite at sea, forced to recollect events she has suppressed for years. When the truth about the murder emerges, it is as resistant to the expected dramatic flow as the rest of this excellent play. Life, Munro is saying, doesn't work the way bits of theatre do: sometimes things just happen, and usually they're not neatly tied up.

Louise Ludgate gives a strong performance as Josie, finding herself and her mother at the same time, and Ged McKenna and Helen Lomax are much more than just a nice guard/nasty guard double act. But the centre of the piece is Sandy McDade's magnificent Fay: flinty, jittery, callous and concerned almost moment by moment, she turns these switchbacks into the core of Fay's character, so that by the end she has us in a similar contradiction, both feeling sympathy with her and not.

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Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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