Maureen Beattie delivers this bleakly poignant dramatic monologue from Stellar Quines
This article is from 2012.
In 1916, American playwright Susan Glaspell wrote a one-act piece, Trifles, about two women using their intimate knowledge of the domestic sphere to hide clues right under the noses of a group of men investigating a murder. It may be nearly a century later, but Québécois writer Jennifer Tremblay’s The List is strikingly reminiscent of that landmark play in drawing on the trappings of the home environment to explore similar themes of female cooperation, identity and alienation in a bleakly poignant dramatic monologue.
Maureen Beattie gives a simmering performance as the unnamed narrator, a wife and mother whose decision to give up work and move to a small village in the country has left her feeling increasingly unhappy and isolated. Her life has shrunk to a series of meticulous to-do lists, a never-ending cycle of recycling, school runs, expenses, housework, groceries and baking for local gatherings. One of these excruciating parties leads her into a tentative friendship with neighbour Caroline, a mother of four with another on the way. Caroline asks her new friend for a favour, which the protagonist adds to one of her lists, only to forget, with tragic consequences.
Muriel Romanes’ production for Stellar Quines mines Tremblay’s slow-burning monologue (engagingly translated by Shelley Tepperman), making the most of the leavening dark humour and really ratcheting up the tension in the closing segment. The claustrophobic surrounds of the anatomy lecture theatre at Summerhall are the perfect reflection of Beattie’s character’s sense of guilt and entrapment: at times she seems a prisoner in the dock facing her accusers. Meanwhile, John Byrne’s simple set with its single table and metal panel at the back of the stage recalls a cage or a prison cell. However, it’s Beattie’s superb, deceptively physical performance that really brings the play to life. Filling the small space with her increasingly strung-out movements he does a wonderful job of creating the other characters in the story as well as the two very distinct sides of her protagonist’s public/private personae, in the process drawing us ever deeper into her helpless, desperate confession.
Summerhall, 0845 874 3001, until 25 Aug (not 20), 2pm, £12 (£10).