Saturday, September 30

For Better For Worse – C ARTS

This thought-provoking new drama by Edinburgh playwright Jill Franklin was inspired by the Independence Referendum of 2014. But although set in the heady days of that September nine years ago, it is not really about Scottish Independence which is a peripheral issue here.

Diane, movingly played by Sheila Duncan, became a widow six months ago when her husband died. Now it’s her birthday and her son, Mark, arranges a surprise visit with her daughter, Natalie, to celebrate the occasion.

Although Diane is pleased to see them, she gently castigates them for assuming she hadn’t made other arrangements.  During the next few days there ensues a struggle by Diane to find her own voice. Her husband had made all the decisions in their marriage, and now her children seem to be trying to tell her what she should or should not be doing. Diane wants to be in charge of her own destiny. So in a sense the play is about Independence after all – but Diane’s independence rather than Scotland’s.

Mark and Natalie have fallen out. He supports Scottish Independence. She doesn’t. Their opposing views on the Referendum have unearthed some deep-seated and longstanding animosities. Their political differences are a symptom not a cause of the malaise in their relationship.

They are soon arguing noisily but when Diane tells them she has made an important decision, they are united in opposition and do all they can to thwart her aspirations.

Mark O’Neill (Mark) and Erin Elkin (Natalie) are convincing as the siblings. We see the angry quarrels, the calculated scheming and a tender scene of reconciliation when a drunken Mark apologises for his past conduct.

The deceased father is very much a character in this play, too. At first we get the impression that it had been a happy marriage. But in the course of the play we find out that Diane’s marriage was far from perfect.

Mark who idolises his father finds it more difficult to accept his Dad’s imperfections than Natalie who had been booted out of the family home.

In one scene Diane directs an angry speech at the seat on which her husband used to sit. It’s cathartic for her to say the things she was afraid to say to him when he was alive.

Although some grief still remains for the loss of her husband, you sense that his death has been a liberation for her. She’s free of his domination, and she is not going to let herself be controlled by anyone else again.

By the end of the play she has turned the tables on her children, too, and made it clear that she won’t brook any interference in the decisions she makes about her life.

The fifty minute play proceeds at breakneck speed. Occasionally the dialogue is said so quickly that words are lost. A slightly more relaxed pace may develop as the play beds in.

This play tugs the heartstrings, but it’s also witty with plenty of amusing moments. The script, well directed by Emma Lynne Harley, has been developed over a number of years. The original draft emerged soon after the Referendum while the writer was doing an M.Sc in playwrighting at the University of Edinburgh.

It’s a well written play which gradually releases the secrets and deep-seated emotions that have caused so much turmoil in this family. An emotional rollercoaster.

Reviewer: Tom Scott

Reviewed: 15th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.