Review: Handfast by Nutshell Theatre

The conclusion of Jules Horne's trilogy looks at marriage and the purpose of it

★★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 05 Aug 2018
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Handfast

There's a lightness of touch to Jules Horne's new play, produced by Scottish company Nutshell Theatre, in association with St Andrews’ Byre Theatre. Its examination of the desire for and implications of marriage (the heterosexual kind, in this case) is detailed with warmth and sensitivity through the lives of three middle-aged couples, two of them married and one preparing for their wedding day.

Traffic warden Mona (Joanna Holden) and Geoff (Stephen Doherty) are the still-unwed couple, a pair of odd but kind-hearted eccentrics whose passion for each other might be confounded by Geoff’s awkward inability to let Mona completely into his world; Marina (Pauline Goldsmith) and musician Neil (Sandy Nelson) are comfortable but world-weary, he infuriating to her but somehow viewed as a rebel by friends; and humanist celebrant Sarah (Mary Gapinski) and dentist Mark (Valentine Hanson) are coming undone through their lack of intimacy.

Together with Horne’s past plays Allotment and Thread, this is the conclusion of the aptly-named Still Points of the Turning World trilogy. Horne’s words have a nice, poetic chime, and director Kate Nelson affords them space to breathe – although this ninety-minute show feels slightly overlong next to the usual Fringe sixty.

Unintentionally, the warmth of the piece is literal on a good day. Staged in Summerhall's cafe in mid-evening, the unavoidable sunshine bleed from outside brings the sense of a gazebo to George Tarbuck’s lighting design. If you’re the sort of person in whom a wedding brings out the romantic, then this play is for you.