The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy Part II: The Carousel

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

This second outing for Jennifer Tremblay’s unnamed narrator (played by Maureen Beattie) is a literal and spiritual journey through the Québécois landscape of her childhood as she rushes to be by her dying mother’s side. 

It’s also a communion with the dead: the narrator repeatedly asks her grandmother, Marie, why she sent her only daughter away to boarding school. It cements the theme of motherhood that runs throughout all three plays, and the different forms that can take. 

Tremblay’s lyrical play is laden with symbolism, more abstract than in the first part of the trilogy, The List. There is the idea of a door closing, the neverending circular motion of the carousel that seems to suggest the ongoing cycle of daughter becoming mother, on and on through time. There is the sad contrast of something as childlike as a fairground taking on all the baggage of adulthood and losing its sense of sheer fun. It’s topped off with a sinister steam organ theme that plays over and over. 

A more detailed set surrounds the woman, decorated like a young girl’s bedroom wall, inset with a shrine to Mary, symbolic mother par excellence. It’s more childlike and it’s bigger, an expansion that comes at the expense of clarity, but Beattie gives a blistering performance in her pendulum swings from childlike glee to adult misery. 

Another stunner in all its elements, but more loosely brought together.