Fringe Theatre Reviews: The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy

Maureen Beattie stars in Stellar Quines' Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy at the Edinburgh Fringe – we head along to check it out

Feature by Cat Acheson | 27 Aug 2015

Stellar Quines’s staging of The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy is well deserving of its glowing reputation. This series of monologues plunges into the heart of one woman’s introspective struggles to make peace with her past, her loved ones and her own failings. Tremblay possesses a rare writing talent that is infinitely powerful, unstoppably moving and almost more believable than real life itself. Her ability to give the audience startling insights into the inner workings of character through language might put her on a par with Anton Checkov or Brian Friel, but she also belongs to a category entirely of her own. Moreover, the unique and powerful acting ability of Maureen Beattie could not be more appropriate to convey the raw complexity of the trilogy’s central character, The Woman.

If you only manage to see one part of the trilogy, it should be The List [★★★★★]. Here The Woman is forced to confront her own internalized guilt about the self-centred lifestyle she has unwittingly embraced, allowing petty obsessions and a need for control to stand in the way of connecting with others. Against a painstakingly beautiful and bare backdrop of corrugated iron, ghostly lighting and subtle sound composition, The List takes an unembellished, matter-of-fact approach to unimaginable loss, and it is this perfect judgement of tone that ultimately makes the play so devastatingly honest.

In The Carousel [★★★★☆], The Woman confronts her family’s fraught history as she drives to her dying mother’s bedside along the 138 motorway, a place of nightmares and cruel memories. The Carousel creates a vivid and genuinely chilling picture of how certain traumas and betrayals resonate across decades, but it lacks the clear direction and focus of The List. The collage-like structure of flashbacks is confusing, and audiences will need to keep their complimentary copies of the woman’s family tree close to hand to follow the many different threads of the narrative. The set and lighting are likewise quite intense and possibly distracting, but their mesmerising complexity has to be admired.  

The Deliverance [★★★★☆] offers further insights into what happens when The Woman is forced to confront the gaping holes in her relationship with her past. It may be centred around a similar theme to that of its predecessor, but its focus and style are different enough to offer the audience something completely new and satisfying. The Deliverance takes a more direct approach to one unified narrative: The Woman’s attempts to reconnect her dying mother with her estranged half-brother. Driven by a powerful narrative voice, the play is a beautifully paced examination of the extraordinary power of childhood hopes and resentments to linger on in adult life.   

Stellar Quines: The Jennifer Tremblay Trilogy:

The List, Assembly Roxy, 'til 31 August, 12:20, £14.50/£13.00

The Carousel, Assembly Roxy, 'til 31 August, 14:00, £14.50/£13.00

The Deliverance, Assembly Roxy, 'til -31 August, 15:40, £14:50/£13.00