Spine (Edinburgh Fringe)

A powerful marriage of the political and the emotional in Clara Brennan’s one-woman play

Rosie Wyatt
Rosie Wyatt
© Richard Davenport

Stories are radical. It’s an insight that seems to drive much of the work at this year’s Fringe and one that propels Clara Brennan‘s fiercely defiant monologue. Her play agitates via emotion, weaving together the personal and the political in the most heartbreaking, chest-thumping of ways.

Glenda is an elderly woman slowly succumbing to dementia in the house she has lived in her whole life. Amy is a tough, mouthy teenager from the estate down the road. There’s little they have in common other than both being discarded by a government more interested in pounds than people. That and a fierce, irrepressible streak of honesty.

By haphazard chance, Glenda and Amy become unlikely friends, as the younger woman cares for the older in her increasing ill health. Brennan offers us this friendship through Amy’s angry, frustrated and increasingly galvanised voice, as committed leftie Glenda offers a channel for the teenager’s rage and intelligence. Books, piled high in Glenda’s living room after being chucked out of the closing local library, become both a legacy and a path to the future.

Rosie Wyatt delivers the piece with machine-gun intensity, hurling her words at the audience like ammunition. Even in the quieter moments, Wyatt quivers with coiled-up energy, which she then unleashes with devastating power. It’s a triple whammy of emotional force, landing punches at the level of story, performance and politics.

The picture that gradually emerges, through tear-stained eyes, is one of loss, anger and nascent possibility. Because, as Glenda recognises, "there’s nothing more terrifying than a teenager with something to say".

Spine runs at Underbelly Cowgate until 24 August