The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy Part I: The List

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 20 Aug 2015

The first of Jennifer Tremblay’s Mothers Trilogy, which debuted at the Fringe in 2012, stands apart from the other two plays. All of them are monologues by the same unnamed narrator, all about motherhood, but while the other parts are entirely about the narrator’s family, The List is also about friendship. 

The narrator (Maureen Beattie) recalls the events that led to the premature death of her friend Caroline just after the birth of her fifth child. As she remembers, she returns again and again to her list of the many mundane things that keep a family house in order: bins, washing up, etc.

While the woman’s words may describe families and hordes of children, as a whole the play feels cold and almost epic. It’s infected with a sense of the chilly rural landscape of Quebec as the woman comes to terms with both desolation and isolation. It's a similiar feeling to the deserts of August: Osage County and One Hundred Years of Solitude, except without the arid heat.

A tight knot of branches projected onto the back wall—a motif that recurs in the other two parts of the trilogy—is a reminder of how closely these plays and this woman are connected to the landscape of her home. Beattie’s formidable performance makes the woman seem judgmental and fierce, but those damning qualities seem to be born of guilt. She is reproaching herself for the avoidable death of her only friend. 

Tremblay’s soul-searching prose, Beattie’s thrilling performance and a beautifully stark design come together in a gently stunning production.