The List

Maureen Beatty shines in this gem of a one-woman show.

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 10 Aug 2013

Summerhall have brought this one-woman show back for another summer after a good run last year. Quite justifiably: The List is tightly written and brilliantly performed. Maureen Beattie plays a woman who left the city for the wilderness (rural Quebec in Jennifer Tremblay's original French script, but it could easily be the Highlands), and finds she doesn't much like it. Her marriage suffers, she's bored by her kids; soon she's resorting to neurotic list-making. She also dislikes her neighbours, except one - Caroline.

Beattie's monologue begins and ends with a confession: she blames herself for Caroline's death in childbirth. A play about regret, then, but it also has a lot to say about what it's like to be a woman getting older. When the unnamed protagonist complains about the "dry, drab, sterile fields" surrounding her house, her words convey more than just dissatisfaction with the scenery.

The production values are exceptionally high. The lighting unobtrusively indicates changes of mood and weather; an up-tilted spotlight makes a shadow-theatre of the curved ceiling of this vet school lecture theatre. Special attention is paid to sound. A few moments of violent noise—when Beattie throws herself back against the beautiful coppery screen at the back of the stage, or pushes a table aside with unnecessary force—reveal the panic beneath her airy composure.

But it's Beattie's impassioned performance that turns a compentent show into a moving one. She has mastered the script, and squeezes every drop of emotion from it, but has enough control to ensure she never seems overwrought.