Damned Rebel Bitches

One of the many, many, injustices found in the modern theatre scene is the dearth of interesting and strong roles for older woman, who when they rarely do get given prominent roles in scripts are often relegated to cheering supporters of younger characters stories, that is if they’re not killed off for cheap emotional pathos. Playwright and director Sandy Thomson and company Poorboy aim to change that with their new production at the Traverse, Damned Rebel Bitches, by bringing the fierce women of the war years into the spotlight and placing their stories and dilemmas centre stage. The show however, despite being a rollickingly entertaining adventure ends with a whimper rather than a bang, and never quite hits the heights it promises the audience at it’s start

Telling the tale of 80 year old sisters Ella and Irene, the play follows them on a quest to find their missing grandson in New York on the night Hurricane Sandy makes Landfall, whilst at the same time frequently flashing back to scenes from their earlier lives, growing up on the Clyde, emigrating to New York and the loves and losses they experience on the way. The show has an immediate charm that endears the audience to it’s setting and characters right from the get go, aided immensely by wonderful performances by all of the small cast. Each performer is able to embody multiple characters with ease and coordinate each other immensely well to move around the stage with energetic physicality with ease. Special mention has to go to Tina Gray as the lead character Ella, who delivers a powerhouse performance of a woman completely confident in herself and her abilities, dominating the stage and showing a mastery of witty one liners and acidic put downs that would put most comics to shame. It truly is an astounding performance that is able to show the highs and lows of a life well lived and this reviewer was enamoured by her character from the get go.

It’s this connection with the audience, the sense of fun and adventure the cast are able to impart to them that make the show come to life, and aided by a wonderful stage, lighting and sound design that allows the stage to become a variety of locations with ease, the show seemed to be on the way to a winner.

This unfortunately, was not to be, as this wonderful production is attached to a script that feels almost half done in terms of structure. The play suffers from being overstuffed with unnecessary sub plots, our second lead Irene contributes very little to the overall show, only being the subject of a strange subplot about hallucinations that goes nowhere, and in all honestly she could have been cut out of the play entirely with no great loss. What’s more several key story points in the play start strong and fizzle out, Ella’s relationship with her late husband, which makes up the bulk of the plays flashbacks to the sisters earlier lives, has no real ending or resolution to the conflicts it establishes leaving the audience wondering what the point of it. Even more frustrating is the play’s ending, instead of resolving the many plot points and narrative threads left hanging, the show comes to a screeching halt, in an abrupt, confusing and self contradictory ending that left me wondering what the hell had actually ended. It’s the worse kind of ending, that actively undercuts the goodwill the show had been able to foster in the audience, and leaves you to exit the auditorium angry and frustrated at the show.

In the end I do think there is enough good in the show to recommend seeing, but I am disappointed that an otherwise wonderful show hamstrings itself in such a spectacular way with shoddy script design of all things.

Guest Reviewer: Joseph McAulay

 

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