Monday, May 20

Two Sisters – Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

Writer David Greig, returns to the stage for the first time since taking the reins as Artistic Director of The Royal Lyceum in 2016, with a whimsical exploration of time, memory, love and self-fulfilment.

The title might be a nod to Chekhov, but the setting is closer to home ,a rusting and decrepit caravan park, on the shoreline of the Firth of Forth in the kingdom of Fife. Two thirtysomething sisters, Amy and Emma meet up in Holiday Heaven, the favourite holiday location of their youth. Emma is now a successful lawyer and company director who is just looking for peace and quiet and a space to write, on her own, a last chance of self expression before her first child arrives. Amy, leather clad and tottering about in high heals, is a failed rock star, who has jumped from one idea to the next, and one man to the next her whole life, a chaotic spinning top of energy, who gatecrashes Emma’s hide away to escape her latest marital crisis.

The setting is nicely created by Lisbeth Burian, a peeling and battered seaside backdrop complete with angled concrete breakwaters and decaying caravans, with a rusting swing and climbing frame thrown in for good measure. Populating the breakwater and climbing frame and bringing some menace and edge to the proceedings are the local air-gun totting teenage hangouts, a group of about a dozen, who wander in and out of play. These are played by a rotating cast of local young actors.

Amy and Emma’s memories of the place they used to love coming too seem distorted by time and space, surely this isn’t the happy, colourful, sun-drenched utopia that they grew up in? Now it just seems grey and small, rusting and dangerous.

As if coming to the rescue of their utopia-tinged memories, they meet the camp caretaker vinyl-spinning DJ, Lance, who just happens to be Amy’s first love from 20-odd years ago. Still clad in T-shirt and board shorts and living his Peter Pan existence, Lance is like the sea or the rocks, elemental vital and seemingly unchanged by time.

Whilst it is a nice idea, the execution is not helped by a ponderous script. The sheer volume of words the sisters have to cope with feels excessive and clunky. There are moments of brief humour, “you were the most beautiful girl in Fife”, Lance tells Amy. But it’s not enough to save this production. At times it feels like the sisters are drowning in words, fighting manfully up a mountain of man-text. Amy emoting about her sex drive and her need to enter the Connecting Realm or her wheedling, extended soliloquy about how love is like different types of orange juice, doesn’t square with her chaotic rock’n’roll character. Likewise, weirdly affected, stagey observations intersperse the dialogue from Emma, incongruous and jarring, almost existentially absurd, set against periods of calm reflection.

At times it is more like listening to a philosophical lecture, with the important bits underlined, than a play, which all adds up to a very uneven ,and overly long, viewing experience.

Having said all of that it is not entirely unwatchable thanks to the excellent acting of Jess Hardwick and Shauna MacDonald as the sisters, who despite the language manage to create a believable filial bond, and Erik Olson as the likeable Lance.

I’m a big fan of David Greig, one of Scotland’s most influential and significant writers alive today, but he has written better.

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 15th February 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.