Review: How to Be Brave (Summerhall Roundabout, Edinburgh)

Siân Owen’s play for Dirty Protest puts a mother centre stage

How To Be Brave
How To Be Brave
© Kirsten McTernan

Lots of the shows performed in the Roundabout at Summerhall are, more often than not, short and punchy coming-of-age stories about youngsters in dead-end towns, and this latest is similar, but different. Siân Owen's play focuses on a mother, Katie, struggling over the course of one day, with the prospect of a very ill daughter, it's a coming-of-age story of sorts, but this time with an adult in the frame.

This struggle is no "I'm going to sit in a corner and weep about it" kind of struggle. Katie's day consists of basically entirely freaking out and running around Newport like a complete maniac, stealing a bike, being nasty to old classmates, falling down a mudslide and doing a dance on a roundabout. It's Katie's fear that propels her to avoid sitting still, her thoughts and feelings whizzing non-stop through her mind, making it impossible to think calmly or rationally about anything that she does.

It a physical re-enaction of the sort of internal terror anyone would feel in the same situation. Throughout the day people from her past pop up and her own feelings and fears she felt as a child bubble to the surface, demonstrating how being brave is no simple thing.

Laura Dalgleish is on her own onstage, bringing, as is often the case with a Dirty Protest production, an entire city to life. She bounces around the Roundabout stage with incredible energy and a real sense of truth. Dalgleish is superb to watch, almost incoherent with her fear at times, whilst at others poetically lucid. And Catherine Paskell's direction leaves everything to this consummate performer.

But Owen's play labours too much on the journey and not enough on the arrival and so when the day comes to a close, it's all over too fast. Still, there's no denying that it's highly refreshing seeing a story about the realities of motherhood. It's a narrative that isn't covered enough.

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