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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Monday, September 17, 2012

A Beginning, a Middle and an End, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

You couldn't accuse Sylvia Dow of being over-hasty. After a lifetime in arts administration, she has waited until her 70s to make her playwriting debut. There is nothing antiquated, however, about her writing: A Beginning, a Middle and an End has a spareness and sense of fluid theatricality from which many a youngster could learn.

She does, though, share some of the wisdom of her years. This sweet-natured 70-minute three-hander, produced by Greyscale in association with Stellar Quines, is a metaphor for the stages of life. It starts with an air of expectancy – and a nod to Waiting for Godot – in a garden of Eden, where a latter-day Adam and Eve (their names are Ade and Evelyn) prepare to begin a life together.

They fill their house with the bric-a-brac of everyday life – records, deck chairs, endless avocado plants – and measure out their lives in the repeating patterns of games of Scrabble. Soon they're lamenting the ephemerality of youth, folding away the paper memory of a child as if it was Peter Pan's lost shadow. Before you know it, Ade is on his own, evoking the lonely minor-key ending of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard.

This could be glum, but Dow's more forceful metaphor is to do with the renewal of the seasons and life's endless replenishment. "Patience, water, soil and sun" is too fertile a recipe to be held back by the changes and regrets caused by the passage of time. Whatever happens, life goes on.

Some of the writing is too elliptical for its own good, and the pace sometimes crosses the line separating the dreamlike from the lethargic, but there's a playful charm to Selma Dimitrijevic's production. With empathetic performances from Jon Foster and Emilie Patry, plus Andrew Gourlay as their semi-estranged son, it is an auspicious, if tardy, debut.

© Mark Fisher, 2012
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