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Trigger Warning: Suicide.
Lois Mackie stars in Best Girl, a one woman show which focuses on family relationships, in particular between Fathers and Daughters. Semi-autobiographical in nature, the story follows a young woman as she struggles to cope many years after a family tragedy. Originally performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, this production takes the form of a 50 minute film, leaving us the audience in our own homes to unveil Annie’s story.
Best Girl is actress Christine Mackie’s first play, but has few of the pitfalls common to writing debuts. Mackie’s writing is reflective and thoughtful whilst also being quick and engaging – a difficult feat. This play is performed by Mackie’s daughter, Lois Mackie, and is very much a family story. Occasionally we see shows written by one family member and performed by another where nepotism overshadows suitability for a part. There is none of that here. This incredibly personal story is brought to life beautifully, and with a more intense connection, by a performer with such a strong connection to the character. The character being a fictionalised version of her mother. A testament to this casting is Annie’s vulnerability during the piece – as a viewer I performed the role of the receptacle that she pours her deepest thoughts and feelings into.
The plot follows Annie as she deals with a break-up with her partner, but reflects on the break-up of her family. Aged 11 Annie’s father killed himself whilst she and her brother were at school. Her father, she says, was troubled by the Gulf War, where he had seen and done terrible things – things that continued to haunt him and prevent him from living his life with his wife and children.
Suicide is a terrible way to lose a parent, and Christine Mackie’s writing exposes the guilt that surviving family members often feel in the aftermath. Her character, Annie, subtly reflects on the constant thought that you weren’t enough.
Yet, this is a piece not just about loss but about growth. In dealing with her past and her present, Annie seeks out therapy to guide her through the conflicting emotions of daily life. I am heartened by the realistic portrayal of grief, which is not all tears and screaming but it often reflection and silence broken up by moments of joy and laughter.
This piece is very subtle in its performance and writing. Lois Mackie is accompanied by a bench and a few props as she tells Annie’s story. To hold an audience for fifty minutes is a testament to her performance as her facial expressions and intonation become the set, the sound effects and the costumes.
This is a simple piece about love and loss, which whilst not ground-breaking or complex provides a moving insight into a life that continues despite great loss, and the complexities of finding joy despite deep sorrow.
Best Girl is playing online at paus.tv until 18 April. For more information see Eventbrite’s website.