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Review: Daughterhood (Summerhall Roundabout, Edinburgh)

Charley Miles brings her new play to the Edinburgh Fringe

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
© Rebecca Need-Menear

The difference between caring about something and caring for someone is brought into blistering focus in Charley Miles' new play, which premieres at the Summerhall Roundabout, where the playwright got bags of praise for Blackthorn last year.

At the heart of the story are two sisters divided by an age gap of nine years: Pauline and Rachel. Pauline, the elder, has been hunched over father's bedside full time, caring for him and seeing her own life and prospects slowly desaturate like her grey, sagging jumper. But Rachel has now returned, brimming with energy following a campaign in Parliament to help reform the pharmaceutical industry. The younger has been trying to clean up a corrupt system, while the elder is left cleaning up after her father.

It's a rich starting point for a play, and Miles' writing blossoms when reversing back through the lives of the two sisters: we see a younger and energised Pauline desperate for an MA, while Rachel feels constantly in her old sister's shadow, resorting to rebellious behaviour for attention.

Played by Charlottes Bate and O'Leary, they spring into life when outside of each others' presence. But when the pair come together things are a bit more stifled – every conversation Bate and O'Leary has seems to become a one-note shouting match as tensions continue, unresolved. There's some solid supporting work from Toyin Omari-Kinch (playing every male figure in either of the sisters' lives), but the piece sags as its central conceit doesn't seem to really develop.

The care of different generations and familial tension is a burningly pressing topic (it's also being tackled by companies like The Wardrobe Ensemble at the Fringe), especially in a society with an ageing population. Through a pained smile that takes more than a few seconds to assemble, Pauline states "I thought I had more time" as she stares at the prospect of years more as a carer.

Daughterhood doesn't quite land with the right amount of oomph – Miles pens a note-perfect monologue about beached whales, but sometimes the script lays it on a bit thick: "You're living in the PAST", Rachel's schoolfriend blurts unnecessarily at Pauline, and you yearn for some sort of detente between the siblings.

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