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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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Friday, June 04, 2010

Any Given Day, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

Any Given Day

Traverse, Edinburgh
4 out of 5

With a Linda McLean play, you can bet on two things. One is characters who are held together by the bonds of family loyalty and the memory of some past trauma. The other is a mould-breaking dramatic structure that reflects the characters' emotional fragmentation. In Any Given Day, which is as bold, unnerving and fraught as anything she has written, you get both.

You don't know it at first, but the play ultimately belongs to Kate Dickie's Jackie, a nurse who has retreated from private and professional pressure to take up a job as a barmaid. As with so many Dickie roles, she is a woman whose hard, cautious exterior protects a turbulent inner life. On the surface, she is efficient, direct and unyielding; inside, she has the helplessness of a mother who cannot relieve her son's pain and of a niece who can never do enough for her mentally disabled relatives.

What is particularly unsettling for the audience in Dominic Hill's gripping production is the feeling that we know these relatives. We have met them earlier in the evening, played exquisitely by real-life brother and sister Kathryn and Lewis Howden. With its spare, elemental dialogue evoking a tenement version of David Harrower's Knives in Hens, this first act is a loving, amusing and sad portrait of a couple who have difficulty performing everyday tasks and greater difficulty still coping with an intolerant society. It ends horribly.

By the time we encounter Dickie as she interrupts an awkward flirtation with her boss to phone them and cancel her visit, the relatives are just a memory. McLean refuses to satisfy our desire for narrative completion with a third-act reunion, leaving us instead with the taste of guilt and irresolution. Yet she gives us compassion, too, for Jackie has done no wrong, and this tragedy of urban alienation is no more of her making than it is of ours.

Until 19 June. Box office: 0131-228 1404.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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