Lyn Gardner's recent Guardian blog wondering whether there are substantive differences between English and Scottish theatre excited some controversy. I was reminded of the question watching Muriel Romanes' production of Jennifer Tremblay's new one-hander, The List, performed by Scottish actor Maureen Beattie. (Going in knowing nothing more than the title, I only discover looking at the programme afterwards that it is in fact a French-Canadian play set in Quebec, presented here in an undetectable translation by Shelley Tepperman).
Put bluntly, the Scottish accent (or specifically Beattie's Scottish accent) makes her character seem an awful lot warmer than I imagine the default English characterisation would. The unnamed woman has moved to a village in the country, outside the city.
From the model of her architect-designed house, perched on a stool as part of John Byrne's evocative set, we infer that she is well-to-do. Her own children's pictures are drawn on "clean white paper" and "collected in clearly labelled see-through boxes". She frets about fingerprints on her shiny black piano. We can all imagine this sort of cold-blooded, Hampstead-dwelling, enemy of the people. It feels a bit weird when she's personable, quite passionate and alive and Scottish.
Tremblay's tale, though set in the 21st century, feels uncannily gothic – a tale of death foreseen, and deep shadows in dark woods – all the while surrounded by the almost banal day-to-day details of everyday life. It's an intriguing piece of writing, perhaps recalling the modern fairy tales of Angela Carter, well-served by a vivid performance from Beattie. That said, it feels almost too resolutely self-contained, and yet not really explaining itself. I'm not sure if this presentation on the Fringe has necessitated cuts in the original, but it feels as if there's a lot more story that needs to be told for The List to be truly satisfying.
- Andrew Haydon
The List continues at Summerhall until 25 August 2013