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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Six Acts of Love

© Mark Fisher - published in The Guardian

Six Acts of Love
Tron, Glasgow
3 out of 5

Katherine is a woman in need of a story. For much of the time in Ioanna Anderson's gentle comedy, though, you don't notice her dilemma because the fiftysomething Dublin mother of four seems to be surrounded by stories. There is the story of her husband Tom, who has run off with a young artist and started a new family; the stories of her grown-up sons and the lives they are forging for themselves; and the endless torrent of stories told by her mother Dorothy, desperately hanging on to her memories as dementia sets in.

But for Katherine herself, in a glowing performance by Barbara Wilshere in Andy Arnold's production, the narrative has come to an end. Every encounter with Tom (Benny Young), as he enjoys his second youth, only reminds her of a life once lived and now completed. It doesn't help that a legal hitch means the only way they can get divorced is to re-enact their marriage ceremony, like a cruel exhumation of the past. Nor that Katherine appears in none of the family photos dug out of storage to trigger the failing memory of Dorothy (Una McLean).

She is a woman who might never have existed; unrecognised by her mother, legally denied by the state and deserted by her husband and children. By the time all the other stories are wrapped up and she is left alone in an empty kitchen, she is a blank slate.

Six Acts of Love is a play, like On Golden Pond or The Memory of Water, that you can imagine being taken to heart by West End audiences pleased to find their middle-aged concerns reflected back at them. So, too, can you imagine it being despised by those for whom its mushy sentimentality and low-stakes drama deny any real theatricality. As with many plays where the characters are fixated on the past, every move forward requires several steps back, depriving the production of energy.

However, as heart-on-your-sleeve bourgeois theatre goes, Arnold's production is beautifully executed - not least McLean's proud portrayal of a woman losing her mind, which reaches a heart-breaking conclusion when her devoted husband (Des Braiden) sends her off with another story. It won't be to everyone's taste, but Six Acts of Love has every chance of becoming a summer-season staple.

© Mark Fisher, 2008

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