A housewife with two children, has moved to a small village with her husband, away from the chaos of the city. Here, in the quiet landscape of rural life, she attempts to find herself and her family. She finds comfort on Wednesdays when the children are at school and she can treat herself to naps, expensive chocolates or just savouring the flavours of food without the constant din of children at her feet. But her Wednesdays are threatened when her husband tells her she must make friends with neighbours and villagers and her precious time is stolen by the kindling friendship of Caroline, a mother with enough children to last her a lifetime. Caroline’s home is spewed with laundry – with writing and drawings on the wall – and there she dwells with her smile and comfort and love.
The List, presented by Stellar Quine and written by Jennifer Tremblay (with a translation from Shelley Tepperman), looks at the budding relationship between a woman and Caroline, as two mothers with task after task to complete for their families and list after list to be written and worked through. But adding something to a list, the act of recording and noting “I must do this”, doesn’t always mean it is actioned and, in the case of The List, neglecting to complete a task has a devastating outcome.
Maureen Beattie leads the audience in this one-woman production, drawing our attention and emotion through a winding narrative that creates a feat of storytelling. It’s simplistic in its presentation, relying upon Beattie’s skillful delivery to reach into the story and tell her character’s perspective. Tremblay’s play is a curious one that touches upon the necessaries of motherhood, and the complicated emotion that transpires when you want to lock yourself away in a cupboard to be rescued from life and your responsibility as a parent. Beattie tackles all of this with subtlety and commitment and, as the closing moments of The List come to pass, you can’t help but be moved by her storytelling.
The complications of rural life, making friends with fellow mothers, and the obsessive nature of list-making penetrates The List throughout. Tremblay’s narrative at time feels as if it is about to spin out of control as Beattie delivers continuous streams of consciousness, but then we are yanked back to the heart of the story: the consequences of not completing a list. It sneaks up on you, the realisation of the narrative direction, and yes, through Beattie’s performance we are moved too. In many ways we can see how we’ve been there, creating a list and casually forgetting the importance of that thing that we write again and again at the top. We’ve all made mistakes and we’ve all felt, as Beattie’s character feels, the hopeless despair when we are the potential cause of something devastating. The List is powerful and poignant; a great act of storytelling.
**** – 4/5 Stars
The List is playing at Summerhall until 25th August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.