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Stuart: A Life Backwards – Assembly Topside, Edinburgh

Writer:Jack Thorne

Director:Mark Rosenblatt

Reviewer:Lucy Danser


Stuart: A Life Backwards

Stuart: A Life Backwards

Alexander Master’s bookStuart: A Life Backwardsburst onto the literary scene garnering rave reviews and forcing readers to think anew about homelessness, drug use and the way the system works. The story has all the elements to make a great play and, although this production has brought together some of the most exciting talent in the industry, the result doesn’t quite have the powerful punch the book did.

Jack Thorne’s script contains some of the electric, gritty, articulate dialogue he’s famed for and captures the spirit of Stuart and his unique way with words perfectly. Certain scenes, such as that in which Stuart Shorter breaks the news he doesn’t like Alexander’s biography of him or when he listens to Alexander and Phoebe talking about him from behind a door, manage to contain both the humour and the pathos of Stuart and his situation. In the title rôle, Fraser Ayres is a revelation. With his physicality representing the effects that muscular dystrophy reeked on Shorter’s body, Ayres beautifully captures the many aspects to his personality, limping around the stage and switching from kind to nasty, angry to sad, chaotic to ordered in moments.

Though the opening of the show was punchy and introduces the scene and characters well, the rest of the play felt more like a selection of scenes from the book. This meant we got a snapshot of Shorter’s life rather than the gradually unfolding needed to build empathy for both the characters and truly understand Shorter’s persona. Many of the other characters felt much less fleshed out, their brief appearances failing to leave enough of an impression to ring true. Regardless of these complaints however the tale of Masters and Shorter still cannot fail to leave an important impression about humans and the way in which we treat one another.

Runs until Mon 26th Aug

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