Writer: Sharman Macdonald
Director: Eleanor Rhode
Reviewer: James Higgins
This is the first appearance ofWhen We Were Womensince its premiere in 1988. Writer Sharman Macdonald’s follow up to her award-winning debut playWhen I Was a Girl, I Used to Scream and Shoutdoesn’t quite reach the same dizzy heights but allows us an intimateportrait of a bygone agewracked with religious guilt and self-loathing.
Designer James Turner helps transport usstraight into the heart of conservative working class Glasgow circa 1943 with a simple set consisting of a plain kitchen table and chairs set upon a stark andforeboding dark granite floor. The cracks that appear seem a telling metaphor for what is to come and thedivisions that can spring within atight knit religious family. Mike Robertson (Lighting Designer) deserves real plaudits for his excellent lighting that really brings thecharactersto life as they appear from all sides of the round. Shafts of light illuminate the set from underneath, shining eerily from the crackedkitchen floor, sometimes making the audience question whether they are in WWII Glasgow or are in fact staring purgatory in the face.
There are decent performancesall round. A credible character portrait from Steve Nicolson as alcoholic father Alec comes full of guilt and angst as his world begins to fall apart, his daughter growing up too fast.
There is a remarkable stage debut for Abigail Lawrie (Isla) fresh from hercriticallyacclaimedperformance in the BBC’s recent TV dramatisation of JK RowlingsThe Casual Vacancy. Daughter Isla drives the play displaying both a tough and tender side to young girl taken in by the charms of a sailor (Mark Edel-Hunt) with a murky past. Edel-Hunt convinces as the sailor torn between two worlds.
There isgreat chemistry between the two strong female characters and mother Maggie (Lorraine Pilkington) mirrorsdaughter Isla in that she is both strong butvulnerable. Sarah-Jayne Butler (Cath) appears to dramatic and beautifully-lit effect from the shadows as the play’s twist slowly unfolds.
The intimacy of the Orange Tree allowsthe audience to take on the mantle of the neighboursthat Alec cannotstand,peeking from behind their curtains in judgemental silence. The reworking of the non-linear time line from the original is not for everyone as the past runs parallelthroughout, but (Director) Eleanor Rhode seems to have used the ghostly sombre mood, small cast and simple set to good and atmospheric effect.
Runs untilOctober 3rd | Photo Ben Broomfield