✭✭✭✭✭ Unmissable performance
Summerhall (Venue 26)
Saturday 3 – Sunday 25 August 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson
Stellar Quines’ mesmerising production of The List at Summerhall features a shattering performance by Maureen Beattie.
She plays an unnamed woman whose compulsive list-making is an attempt to impose some kind of order on her isolated life following a move to the countryside. After befriending a woman called Caroline, she discovers that there can be tragic differences between remembering a task and actually carrying it out.
Apparently hemmed in by the rows of desks in the Anatomy Lecture Theatre towering in front of her, and the brilliantly simple set behind, Beattie is quite simply stunning. Even when speaking at high speed, she is nothing less than convincing. More than that, she exhibits a poetic, transcendent quality, aided by the strangely hypnotic effect of repeated items from her lists.
It is unusual to see audience members gasp at the straightforward act of, for example, a table being moved. This does not happen because of any shock value, but is simply due to the atmosphere of raw emotional power that has been created.
While it could not be characterised as an easy play to watch, it is far from a depressing experience. There is at least one moment when the emotional intensity is almost unbearable, and the overall effect is deeply unsettling, but it is truly cathartic in the way that only the best drama can be.
A privilege to witness
Buy the script
Although a one-woman performance, this is not a one-person show. Shelley Tepperman’s translation of Jennifer Tremblay’s original script is totally convincing; the original setting of Quebec is still evident but the language is so natural and poetic that it could just as easily be Scotland. Muriel Romanes’ direction is as important as the performance, making every gesture, movement and intonation count.
The set design, courtesy of John Byrne and Roland Fraser, is flawless. Jeanine Davies’ lighting, whether carefully pointing out shifts in time or place, or subtly underscoring the emotional content in tandem with Philip Pinsky’s eerie sound design, is judged to perfection. It is not an accident when so many elements come together like this; this is clearly the work of dedicated, talented professionals at the top of their game.
There is often a gap before the audience clap at the end of a Fringe performance, sometimes because they are not sure whether it has finished. On this occasion, the gap was because of a stunned silence, followed by sustained and thoroughly deserved applause.
The only slight doubt is whether the play is as outstanding as it appears, or whether any deficiencies that may exist have been camouflaged by the power of Maureen Beattie. This will be answered by subsequent productions; here, it is irrelevant, as the play and the performance are indivisible. Quite simply, this production is a privilege to witness and one which you will remember for years to come.
Running time 50 minutes
Run ends Sunday 25 August 2013
Daily (not Mons or Tuesday 20) at 2 pm
Venue 26, Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, EH9 1QH
Tickets from www.edfringe.com
Stellar Quines website: www.stellarquines.com