Fibres draws on a personal story of a woman called Eli, who lost both parents to exposure to asbestos. It is heart-breaking how neglectful companies had been to their workers, usually knowingly exposing them to asbestos and paying very little. Understandably, Frances Poet’s writing reflects deep anger and hurt; she translates the pain of losing family members with great sincerity. The piece seems to utilise the ‘identifiable victim effect’; it grabs us by telling an emotional story of one case rather than overwhelming us with statistics. I suppose that could be the point of art – it pulls at the emotional heartstrings, forcing us to consider an uncomfortable issue.
Despite this darkness, Fibres also captures the Glaswegian wit. Sinister jokes about cancer, asbestos poisoning and depression cause a stir among the audience. It is as if laughter is the only way to cope with such dreadful circumstances; this is probably true.
The strongest moments of this play were in the genuine interpersonal connections between the characters. I felt engrossed in their dialogue and how they would cope together. Fibres is mostly told through a series of monologues directed at the audience. For the most part, it feels like four storytellers cut together, which created a slightly disjointed impression. The flow of the scenes didn’t quite match the standard of the acting and well-researched script. Another aspect that did not quite hang together was the multiple meanings of fibres that they tried to weave into the story: fibres from the asbestos changing their DNA, fibre-optic cables that were the focus of the daughter’s work-life and the metaphorical fibres that hold them together as family. The metaphors were a little forced and might have been stronger if they had not included the fibre-optic cables.
All four actors gave strong performances, cast ideally in their roles. I was most drawn to Maureen Carr, who played Beanie, Jack’s impassioned wife who was also unjustly afflicted with asbestos poisoning from washing Jack’s work overalls. Carr combats her desolate situation with her upbeat disposition, yet she can also unleash a furious anger that gave me chills more than once.
I left Fibres shocked by the neglect and cruelty that humans are capable of- the play certainly accomplished it’s goals. Whilst a little heavy on the monologues at times, Fibres is moving and tells an important story with profound compassion.
PHOTOS: Jassy Earl