Seanmhair, pronounced Shen-a-var is Scots Gaelic for Grandmother, an all knowing woman who has seen and witnessed the brutality of the world first hand. Director Kate Wasserberg takes us to the gloomy backstreets of 1950s Edinburgh in Hywel John’s gutsy new writing.
This three hander is gripping from the off, Mark Bailey and Katy Morison’s set and lighting create a sultry, electric energy against a backdrop of coal like darkness. Hywel’s work is hard hitting, difficult to swallow and so it should be, the twisting plot centres on a ten year old Jenny who falls deeply in infatuation with delinquent Tommy MacLeish a boy who has the sexual drive of a person twice their immature age.
Sian Howard, Jo Freer and Molly Vevers act as a greek chorus taking turns to play the besotted Jenny. Particularly captivating is Howard as an older Jenny and Jenny’s Seanmhair who spits out verse in a crisp Edinburgh accent like a pistol shooting at close range. This older Jenny acts as an anchor throughout the piece as she reflects on the vicious history her and now aged Tommy MacLeish share. Crippled by cancer, Tommy is a ghost of what Jenny once knew and she has an aching yearning for the brute bastard of a husband she once knew.
Jenny and her Seanmhair are united in a dark secret, one which has a wringing cruelty, perfectly communicated by Hywel’s beating, poetic writing. Violence and hierarchy plays a smacking force as Jenny faces the ruthless consequences of her actions.
Movement direction from Laura Jeffs provides a perfect constant for the three actors on stage, managing to create strength and fragility all through simple moves. This piece packs a punch, it’s a heady mix of bleak reality and hissing poetry, travelling at a hundred miles an hour. However, such a potent mixture needs far more room for digestion. The three women cleverly multirole a body of characters, though such intricate dialogue and at times hectic storyline can easily complicate the plot.
The three women on stage create a mystical presence and enchant the audience in to a story of womanhood, regret and the loss of life. This writing is infectious, occultist and highly addictive. 4/5
Review written by Niall Hunt.
Seamnhair is currently showing at the Bedlam Theatre until Monday 28th August as part of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information on the production, visit here…
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