Still @ Traverse Theatre
Grief and pain are examined sensitively in Frances Poet's Still
Pain is a difficult thing to communicate. It manifests in a myriad of intricate and contorting ways – emotional, mental and physical.
Still is Frances Poet's effort to capture varying experiences of it. Gaynor, a housebound mother confined by chronic pain, is awaiting the birth of her granddaughter. Her son and daughter-in-law Dougie and Ciara spend their last night in NCT class preparing, while Gilly struggles with the reality of her terminal father's crossing – and that of his dying dog.
And then there’s Mick. Mick has woken up on Portobello beach (haven’t we all?) with two gold rings in his coat pocket. A wedding? His own? Well, it’ll be one hell of a journey to find out.
Naomi Stirrat, as Gilly, commands a profoundly unexpected understanding of the challenges of grief for one so young, yet mature enough to face the crushing actuality of mortality. The infectious smile she wears to veil the pain is heartbreakingly familiar, as are the nuances within Poet's script and the struggles apparent in Molly Innes’ Gaynor.
A production that would have otherwise been unavoidably bleak is lifted at points by Stirrat’s sublimely folkish vocals and Gerry Mulgrew's thirst for energetic mayhem as the befuddled Mick. Between the two of them, the pair channel a roguish sense of Celtic storytelling. Both barman and bard, Oguz Kaplangi’s live composition become a blessing for Still, where the only movement is musical. A combination of instrumentation and effects, it provides a soupçon of diverse audio cues to enhance Karen Tennent’s design, which is ambitious but at times becomes a touch too fastidious. The frequent furniture moves and set changes occasionally interfere with the show's momentum and narrative flow.
Overall though, Still is a fine production, ending on a clear note that avoids depravity and misery. Instead it presents the complexities of human grief and pain, and questions our inability to sit still.